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NBA: James Harden should’ve gotten late FTs in Rockets’ loss to Hawks

San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 25: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets agrues a call with NBA official Gary Zielinski during their game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Toyota Center on December 25, 2015 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

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Two games, two Rockets losses, two incorrectly uncalled fouls that would’ve sent James Harden to the line for key free throws.

The NBA ruled Harden should’ve drawn a shooting foul with 32.9 seconds left and the game tied in Houston’s 110-108 loss to the Pelicans on Saturday. But the league also ruled Dwight Howard set an uncalled illegal screen earlier in the possession. So, the Rockets had little room to complain.

They can be more upset about their next game, a 121-115 loss to the Hawks yesterday.

Harden should’ve drawn a shooting foul on Paul Millsap with 1:47 left, according to the Last Two Minute Report:

Millsap (ATL) makes contact to Harden’s (HOU) body that affects his drive to the basket and shot attempt

A correct call would’ve put an 87% free-throw shooter at the line for two shots with his team already up a point.

Credit the Hawks for taking advantage of the opportunity. After Howard dunked a possession later, Kent Bazemore made a 3-pointer, and Al Horford added another basket.

That put Atlanta up two points – Harden’s denied free throws? – once the Rockets began intentionally fouling.

We obviously don’t know how the game would’ve played out if the Harden had drawn the whistle, but don’t assume that would’ve meant just two points in a six-point game. It’s very easy, maybe even logical, to see how Houston wouldn’t have needed to intentionally foul with a correct call.

The Rockets’ problems are mostly self-inflicted. Referees didn’t hinder their defensive focus or energy level throughout the season.

But this is still a team in playoff position, and the missed call significantly reduced Houston’s chances beating the Hawks.