The Houston Rockets improved to 2-0 in the preseason early Friday morning, drubbing the LA Clippers 109-96 in Honolulu. Houston star James Harden played 28 minutes and shot only 8 of 22 from the field and 4 for 14 from 3-point range, but hit 17 of 20 free throws to finish with 37 points.
He also committed an offensive foul in the first half that Houston coach Mike D’Antoni tried to overturn by using the one challenge coaches get per game this season. Replay showed that Harden hooked his defender’s arm with his right arm while he dribbled with his left hand, so the call was upheld.
After the game, D'Antoni took a lighthearted approach to his using of the challenge and said he wasn't immediately sure the call was wrong when he decided to challenge it.
"It's easy to screw up," D'Antoni said, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon. "It's going to be a little adjusting. It takes a while to get used to. We don't have the regular flow of information that we'll have in a regular game. They'll tell me before that I should go out there and challenge."
The coach's challenge is being tested by the NBA on a one-year trail. Starting this season (and in the preseason), each team has one challenge per game. The coach can challenge any personal foul called against his team throughout the game. In the first 46 minutes of the game (or the first 3 minutes of overtime), the coach can challenge a goaltending or basket interference call against his team or an out of bounds where his team is not awarded possession.
To perform a coach's challenge, a team must call timeout prior to one of the following: the ball being given to a free-throw shooter, the ball being given to a player throwing the ball in or a referee tossing a jump ball. The coach signals for a challenge by twirling his index finger upward -- similar to the replay signal -- which will then be confirmed by the official if it is within the challenge rules. From there, a blinking "challenge light" will signal courtside as the play is reviewed.
D'Antoni and LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers both said after Thursday's preseason game that their teams' analytics staffs have encouraged them to not look to save their challenges for end-of-game scenarios.
"You know, it's going to be something that is going to take a little bit for us to get used to and when to use it," Rivers said, per ESPN. "My guess is we are going to use it first half, if it's one of your better players that you think didn't commit a foul, you may use it to make sure he gets the foul back. Analytically they said we should use it anytime which I don't agree with that. We'll see how it goes."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.