James Harden certainly does not agree — and he has the entire city of Houston on his side — but the officials made the right calls on two offensive fouls on James Harden in the final 7.3 seconds of the Celtics’ comeback win over the Rockets Thursday night.
That’s not just my opinion, it’s the ruling of the NBA in the Last Two Minute Report released Friday.
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In both cases, with 7.3 seconds and with 3.0 seconds left in the game, Harden was caught pushing off Marcus Smart, in clear view of referee Tony Brothers, who was 10 feet away. In both cases, the NBA ruled that “Harden (HOU) dislodges Smart (BOS) from his legal guarding position.” In both cases, Harden extended his arm and that’s going to get called 99 times out of 100 (even if Smart helped sell it).
In the case of the first call, Harden said postgame, “How else am I supposed to get open? The guy had two arms wrapped around my body?” The NBA League Office disagrees, saying “Smart (BOS) makes marginal contact with Harden (HOU) that does not affect his (freedom of movement).”
Rockets fans are up in arm as the report does say that the officials missed five traveling calls by the Celtics in the final two minutes. There were only two officials on this game, rather than the usual three, after one injured his back during pregame warmups and could not go. These are the kind of things missed when there are fewer officials.
Not that the NBA agreeing with Harden would have changed anything anyway, but the officials can feel vindicated.
The Rockets led the game by 26 points in the third quarter, but Harden shot 3-of-17 in the second half, their player movement and passing came to a halt, and they squandered the lead and ultimately lost it on Al Horford‘s game-winning shot.