But a foul Harden drew is the source of the game’s lasting controversy.
Officials called a foul on the Clippers with 3:10 left. It clearly belonged to Jawun Evans, who had five fouls at that point. But instead of Evans fouling out, the foul was assigned to Lou Williams, who wasn’t involved in the play.
Evans stayed in the game and drew a couple late charges against Harden – frustrating the Houston star and helping the Clippers to a 128-118 win.
The Rockets aren’t giving up, though.
The Rockets officially filed a protest of Friday’s game in which a Los Angeles Clippers player should have been disqualified with 3:10 left, a person with knowledge of the protest said Sunday.
An NBA spokesman on Saturday confirmed that the league was aware of the error.
The Rockets paid the league $10,000 to file the challenge and will have the money returned only if they prevail. If the challenge is upheld, the teams would replay the final 3:10 with the Clippers up five, Evans fouled out and Harden stepping to the line for two free throws. (The game could also resume after Harden’s made free throws, though I’d think he’d have to re-shoot them.)
If the league rules a scorekeeping error wrongly assigned the foul to Williams rather than Evans, the challenge will be upheld. The last successful protest came in 2008, when Shaquille O’Neal was disqualified with five – rather than the correct six – fouls in a Heat-Hawks game.
If the league rules the officials intended to call the foul on Williams, even if that was obvious mistake, the challenge will be denied. That seems more likely.