Was James Harden Robbed of a Triple-Double?

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Another day, another NBA stats controversy.

This time, 76ers guard James Harden finished one rebound shy of a triple-double vs. the Magic on Wednesday night.

But a few minutes into the fourth quarter, this play took place, which would have given Harden 10 rebounds when all was said and done. The former MVP ended the night with 26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

James Harden finished one rebound shy of a triple-double tonight…

This sequence resulted in a Montrezl Harrell rebound 🤔

Harden Triple-Double (+905) ❌ pic.twitter.com/mps0To1xdt

— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) February 2, 2023

The rebound was awarded instead to 76ers big man Montrezl Harrell, who tipped the ball into space, right into the hands of a lurking Harden.

No sportsbook has refunded wagers placed on James Harden to record a triple-double, which was priced as high as +1200.

The official NBA rulebook indicates "an individual rebound is credited each time a player retrieves a live ball or purposely taps a live ball to a teammate immediately following a missed field goal attempt or a missed free throw attempt."

Intent is the key here — and what makes these types of statistical assessments so difficult.

Can we be sure Harrell intended for a teammate to catch his somewhat errant tip? Or did he — without the pure intent to tap it to a teammate — reach out and simply fail to securely bring the ball in?

Philosophically, what is the NBA's threshold for "purposefulness"?

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The onus is on the official scorekeepers — present at the game — to make that assessment in real time. NBA stat auditors then pore over the data to make sure the right decision was made, but that process requires irrefutable evidence that a stat correction is warranted.

In this event, the NBA determined Harrell's tap was "purposeful," under their definition of the word.

The frequency to which these stat controversies occur further calcifies just how fickle NBA scorekeeping is — and how subjective scoring processes are. Proceed with NBA player props — whether in fantasy, daily fantasy sports or betting — with these risks in mind.

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Nick Sterling
Jun 22, 2024 UTC