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Even after 25-point comeback win, Mike D’Antoni still not over protested loss to Spurs

It took a few weeks, but Mike D’Antoni finally got his revenge.

D’Antoni and the Houston Rockets rallied back from a franchise-record 25-point hole to beat the San Antonio Spurs 109-107 on Monday night, avenging a double-overtime loss to the Spurs earlier this month marred by controversy surrounding a missed James Harden dunk in the fourth quarter.

Though Monday’s win at the Toyota Center had to have been satisfying for the Rockets — it marked their fifth win in seven games since the dunk debacle in San Antonio — D’Antoni still isn’t over the loss on Dec. 3.

He may never be, either.

“No. There’s always a place in your heart where that will be,” D’Antoni said, via Sports Illustrated’s Michael Shapiro. “There’s a few scars, and that will fit right in there with the rest of them.”

Harden threw down a dunk in the fourth quarter of that Dec. 3 game, though it propelled back out of the hoop and over the basket after initially falling through the net. The Rockets called a timeout so officials could discuss the play, which they eventually ruled basket interference. D’Antoni then tried to challenge the play, but he was denied — as officials said the 30-second time limit had passed. 

The Rockets held a 13-point lead at the time, but eventually fell by two points in double overtime. They tried to protest the call with the NBA, too, though the league determined that an “extraordinary remedy” was not warranted.

Mike D’Antoni may never be over their first loss to the Spurs this season, which was full of controversy, multiple officiating errors and even an official protest. (AP/Eric Christian Smith)

Rockets turn for a comeback win

While there were no officiating errors this time around, it was the Rockets’ turn to stage a massive comeback win.

Houston barely led at all on Monday night, holding a brief lead in the opening minutes before the Spurs broke the game open while grabbing a 25-point lead multiple times before halftime. 

“They came out and slapped us pretty good right in the face,” D’Antoni said, via ESPN975’s Salman Ali. “They came out ready. They obviously hit everything, but we also allowed them to hit everything.”

That, though, is when the Rockets kicked it into gear.

Houston opened the second half on a 15-3 run to cut San Antonio’s lead to single digits, and held the Spurs to just 17 points in the third quarter. They kept chipping away at the lead until finally tying the game back up with 5:36 left in the game. From there, Houston fended off the Spurs behind seven points from James Harden in the final minutes to grab the two-point win.

Russell Westbrook led the Rockets with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Harden dropped 28 points and had eight rebounds while shooting 10-of-29 from the field. 

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Bryn Forbes added 18 points, and Dejounte Murray finished with 16 points. They shot just 26.7 percent from the field in the second half as a team.

“I think it’s huge,” D’Antoni said, via ESPN975’s Salman Ali. “James didn’t have a great first half. On a lot of levels, that’s important. One, we showed we can come back. Two, OK we know what we have to do defensively. Three, just show the unity and Russell played really well. Just a lot of good things happened. A lot of guys contributed. It was a good win. 

“All wins are good, but that is a really good win.”

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