Basketball: James Harden blasts referee for harsh calls

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (No. 13) driving past Los Angeles Clippers guard Jawun Evans. The five-time All-Star recorded 51 points for the second game running, but could not keep out of foul trouble in the final few minutes as the Rockets slu
Houston Rockets guard James Harden (No. 13) driving past Los Angeles Clippers guard Jawun Evans. The five-time All-Star recorded 51 points for the second game running, but could not keep out of foul trouble in the final few minutes as the Rockets slumped to a 118-128 loss to the Clippers.PHOTO: REUTERS

Guard catches fire in 2nd 51-point game in a row, first to do so in 10 years, but can't lift Rockets to win

HOUSTON • Houston Rockets guard James Harden exploded for his second consecutive 50-point National Basketball Association (NBA) game and then hit out at the officials after being ejected late in his team's 118-128 defeat by the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

Harden tallied 51 points but suffered through several frustrating final minutes that ended with him fouling out before being ejected following an exchange with a referee.

"B******t calls," Harden told reporters when asked about his frustration. "I'm tired of hearing, 'I made a mistake', or 'I didn't see it'. That's frustrating when you hear it as a player. I know we all make mistakes but it's just frustrating."

Harden's tough finish to the night included just two points, two turnovers and three fouls in the final 2min 20sec.

Despite that, Harden became the first player since Kobe Bryant in 2007 to register consecutive 50-point outings.

Bryant had four 50-point games in a row in March 2007. Michael Jordan strung together three straight 50-point nights in 1987.

Harden also scored 51 points in a 116-122 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. Against the Lakers, he scored his 51 in 43 minutes of playing time - and on Friday, he did it in 41 minutes as he fouled out with 26 seconds left.

Harden is also just the second player to score 50 points in back-to-back losses, joining Wilt Chamberlain in the 1962-63 season.

The Clippers (13-18) came alive in the second half to offset the heroics of Harden, who also contributed eight assists in front of a crowd of 18,000 at the Rockets' Toyota Centre arena.

Austin Rivers caught fire in the second half and, with some help from Lou Williams, fired the Clippers to victory. "I had to be aggressive," Rivers said.

He scored 30 of his team-high 36 points on 10-of-18 shooting in the second half, drilling five-of-10 three-pointers down the stretch to keep the Rockets (25-6) off guard.

Williams, traded by Houston in the off season as part of the blockbuster Chris Paul deal, scored 32 points.

Eric Gordon chipped in 28 points for Houston, who closed a seven-game home stand with consecutive losses to both Los Angeles teams.

The Rockets' loss is Golden State's gain. The Warriors (26-6) regained the top spot in the Western Conference from Houston following their 113-106 home win over the Lakers to win their 11th straight game.

Kevin Durant had 33 points to lead the Warriors, who have beaten the Lakers the last 10 times they have met in Oakland.

Rookie Jordan Bell (20 points and 10 rebounds) and Draymond Green (13 points and 11 rebounds), returning from a four-game absence, complemented Durant with double-doubles for the Warriors.

Rookies Kyle Kuzma (27 points and 14 rebounds) and Lonzo Ball (24 points) paced the Lakers (11-19).

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 24, 2017, with the headline 'Harden blasts ref for harsh calls'. Print Edition | Subscribe