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December 5, 2019

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Spurs recover after non-dunk call on Harden

James Harden had a slam dunk waved off by officials, the first sign that it might not be the Houston Rockets’ night.

Lonnie Walker IV helped make sure of that.

Walker had a career-high 28 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame Harden’s 50 points by rallying from a late 10-point deficit to beat Houston 135-133 in double overtime on Tuesday.

Harden played a season-high 49 minutes coming off a 60-point outing on Saturday over three quarters against Atlanta, but he was whistled for two charges in the second overtime. The second came against DeMar DeRozan with 0.8 seconds remaining, sealing San Antonio’s victory at the AT&T Center.

That followed a bizarre moment in the fourth quarter, when officials erased Harden’s dunk with 7:53 remaining and Houston leading 102-89. Officials ruled the ball didn’t clear the cylinder, but crew chief James Capers said after the game that “in fact it did clear the net and should have been a successful field goal.”

Capers said the Rockets did not ask for a review within the 30-second window that coaches can challenge calls, during which time they were arguing and asking for clarification. The botched call crushed Houston’s momentum.

“We just stopped playing and they gained confidence,” Harden said.

The Rockets led by 22 in the second half and were up by double digits in the fourth quarter for all but the final 4:18.

Walker, a second-year guard who has been patiently waiting on the bench most of his career, took over in his first extended playing time to fuel the comeback for the hosts.

“It was confidence,” Walker said. “My teammates kept me going, and once I started feeling it, I am just going to let it go and play my game. I know what I can and cannot do. I’m just happy that we played team ball and we got this win.”

DeRozan added 23 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds as the Spurs won their second straight at home and snapped the Rockets’ two-game winning streak.

“They played faster but with more sense of urgency than we did, especially being up,” Houston point guard Russell Westbrook said.

Clint Capela had 22 points and 21 rebounds, and Austin Rivers and Westbrook added 19 points apiece for Houston. Westbrook was 7-of-30 shooting but added 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

The Spurs were without starting power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed his second straight game with a sore right thigh.

San Antonio responded with a group effort to beat the Rockets four days after knocking off the Los Angeles Clippers at home.

“This is a team that we think we have, we’ve just got to play like this consistently and we haven’t really done that,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “So, hopefully, we are starting to figure that out.”

Bryn Forbes added 25 points, Jakob Poeltl had 15 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 assists, and Rudy Gay added 14 points in 23 minutes for the Spurs.

Houston outscored San Antonio 7-2 in the final two minutes of overtime to force a second OT. Harden’s runner bounded off the backboard and rim as the first overtime ended.

Elsewhere in the NBA, it was: Heat 121, Raptors 110 (OT); Clippers 117, Trail Blazers 97; Pistons 127, Cavaliers 94; Magic 127, Wizards 120; Mavericks 118, Pelicans 97; and Lakers 105, Nuggets 96.


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