The Spurs won their 10th straight game on Friday, hanging on to beat the Rockets in a contest that came down to the final seconds to be decided.
With San Antonio leading by a single point and only a few seconds remaining, James Harden got all the way to the rim with the basketball only to be rudely greeted by Tim Duncan, who blocked his layup attempt to preserve the Spurs’ victory.
At first glance, it appeared to be a foul on Duncan, for the hack he delivered across Harden’s arm. But as part of the official review process, the league determined Duncan’s play to be a clean block, and one that was legal at the same time.
The explanation, via the league’s Last Two Minute Report:
Duncan jumps vertically on Harden’s layup attempt and cleanly blocks the shot. There is contact after the blocked shot, but because the shot is already blocked, the contact is incidental and deemed to have no impact on the shot attempt.
It’s just so very close.
In real time, it sure looked like Duncan committed the foul. But as has been made all too clear by the publishing of these reports, the referees prefer to let the players decide the games in their closing seconds, and Duncan’s block — clean or not — was close enough to where the officials didn’t find it necessary to blow one of their three available whistles.