James Harden draws terrible foul call on Patty Mills, Gregg Popovich’s reaction NSFW

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Let me warn you in advance: If people swearing offends you, don’t play the video above, because Gregg Popovich just about lost it on that call and used a choice word that doesn’t take much of a lip reader to follow.

NBA Twitter also lost its collective mind on the call. It came relatively late in the third quarter of the Spurs eventual win, at a point the Rockets were making a run and keeping it close. Nene comes out and sets a drag screen for Harden, who moves toward it then intentionally runs into Mills and, when he feels contact, launches up a three to draw the foul. It works. The foul is called.

Mills stares in disbelief. Popovich curses. And a former NBA official (and current NBA Senior Vice President of Replay & Referee Operations) went on NBA TV and said it was a bad call.

This specific type of play — the P&R pull-up three foul we’ve seen a lot of from Harden, Chris Paul, and others this season — is something the NBA’s competition committee must address this summer. The ball handler on a pick-and-roll hunts contact — either by running into the defender trying to fight over the top of the screen, or by getting over it then abruptly stopping and waiting for the guy a step behind to run into him — then as soon as he feels a brush of contact the ball handler launches up a three to draw a shooting foul. It leads to bad calls and has become a regular feature of too many NBA games. The league needs to instruct officials to interpret this kind of play differently and not reward ball handlers who initiate the contact with free throws.