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James Harden gets away with grabbing Wesley Matthews’ jersey on game-winning play

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This was a tough play.

The Dallas Mavericks fell to 0-3 on Sunday, losing 93-92 to the Houston Rockets after James Harden hit a game-winning free throw with a tenth of a second left in the game. To help get open, Harden grabbed Wesley Matthews’ jersey, which wasn’t called.

Let’s talk about it.

  1. A blatant pull probably gets called, but Harden was subtle with it. He knows how to get the most out of referees, after all, as seen by the foul he drew seconds later (a legitimate call) to win the game. That’s part of this.
  2. That said, you often see some pushing and pulling allowed on plays like this. Matthews didn’t grab him, but he had both hands on him, too. By the strictest letter of the law, both players committed fouls in that moment.
  3. We all know whistles also get quieter late in games, but that’s not exactly comforting when Harden gets a call his way seconds later.
  4. I guess I’m not convinced that the only reason Harden got open on that play was the jersey pull. Matthews was still right with him, but he had his back to the play and the pass was literally perfect from Nene to get Harden rolling into the lane.
  5. A foul called there would have given the ball back to Dallas with a chance at a game-winning play, or caused overtime. Instead, Dallas falls to 0-3.
  6. There are a hundred other reasons why the Mavericks lost. Harden committed that foul might have been one of them, but it wasn’t so egregious it should be blamed solely for the loss.