LOS ANGELES — Houston Rockets guard James Harden expressed frustration with the referees after Sunday’s Game 1 loss to the Golden State Warriors, specifically pointing to non-calls on 3-point attempts.
“I mean, I just want a fair chance, man,” Harden said after scoring 35 points on 9-of-28 shooting in the 104-100 defeat. “Call the game how it’s supposed to be called, and that’s it. And I’ll live with the results.”
Harden made just 4 of 16 attempts from deep, while often taking contact from Warriors defenders who were closing out aggressively.
Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni chose his words carefully — saying he’d “rather have my charity have the money” than be fined for criticizing officials — but said the referees told him they botched a few such calls in the first half.
“They came in halftime and said they missed them,” D’Antoni said. “That’s what they told me. They missed four of them. That’s 12 foul shots. So be it. They’re trying to do the best they can do.”
“I was told the same thing at half,” Harden added. “There’s probably a couple more in the second half.”
One of the non-calls in question came with 7.4 seconds remaining in regulation, as Harden tried to tie the score with Warriors forward Draymond Green in his face and making contact as Harden came down. The shot missed, and Houston grabbed an offensive rebound but lost possession.
Green disagreed with Harden’s complaints, suggesting Harden encourages foul calls in the way he comes down from 3-point attempts.
“I’ve been fouled by James on a James 3-pointer before,” Green said. “No, I ain’t going with that one.
“… I think we can all sit here and complain about calls after every game. That’s just the nature of the game we play. Refereeing is an inexact science. So it is what it is.”
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, whose team was swept by the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, took note of the lack of whistles, replying on Twitter to screengrabs of tightly contested jumpers.
“My guys were not allowed to contest shots like that last week … or maybe i’m crazy and it’s just camera angles,” Gobert wrote.
Harden also argued that calls should be made when the shooter’s landing space is compromised in order to maintain safety. He referenced Kawhi Leonard’s injury in the 2017 playoffs with the San Antonio Spurs — sustained when he came down from a shot and landed on then-Warriors center Zaza Pachulia’s foot — which ended Leonard’s series after one game in the Western Conference finals.
“We all know what happened a few years back with Kawhi,” Harden said. “That can change the entire series. Just call the game the way it’s supposed to be called, and we’ll live with the results. It’s plain and simple.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Tuesday night in Oakland, Calif. — Reuters