Harden appeared to have scored on a dunk in the fourth quarter with 7:53 left and the Rockets leading 102-89. The ball appeared to have cleared the cylinder but because the netting got caught on the rim the ball bounced backward and went out of bounds resulting in a turnover.
Crew chief James Capers said the Rockets didn’t ask for a review within the 30-second challenge window during which time they were arguing and asking for a clarification about the call.
Capers said after the game that the ball "did clear the net and should have been a successful field goal."
"When the play happened, Harden goes in for a dunk, and then the ball appears to us to pop back through the net," he told a pool reporter. "When that happens, that is basket interference. To have a successful field goal, it must clear the net. We have since come in here and looked at the play. He dunked it so hard that the net carried it back over the rim a second time, so in fact it did clear the net and should have been a successful field goal."
"As to could the play have been reviewed, it is a reviewable matter, but you have a window of 30 seconds to challenge the play during that timeout that he had and while they were protesting the call, trying to get clarification of it, that window passed. So therefore, it elapsed, and they were not able to do it."
The incident sparked a furious comeback by the Spurs. San Antonio guard Lonnie Walker IV scored a career-high 28 points to beat Houston, 135-133.
After the game, Harden acknowledged that the dunk call was a factor.
"We just stopped playing and they gained confidence," said Harden, who scored 50 points in 49 minutes and was 24-for-24 from the foul line.
Sources told ESPN that the Rockets are hoping for action from the league and either reward them the victory or have the last 7 minutes and 50 seconds replayed at a later date.
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni commented on the play before learning of Capers' explanation. He said he tried to challenge the call.
"I have no idea. I heard that they said the ball hit James and went back through, so it was a goaltend on James," he said. "I challenged that, and I didn't get a response. Then another guy said it wasn't a goaltend. It went out of bounds on us. And I said, 'Well, I challenge that.' Can't do that. You know, I don't know, to answer your question. I've got nothing. I can't tell you."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.