James Harden scored 50 for the second straight game, but a late ejection became the story when he expressed his frustration toward officiating afterward. Harden was dominant in a 128-118 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, a game where he quickly racked up fouls late and saw himself on the bench before the final whistle.
Harden got four of his six fouls in the final 5:13 of play, fouling out with 26.6 seconds left and even drawing Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni into a technical foul call with less than three minutes on the clock. It was a frustrating game for the team that had the best record in the West going into Friday’s contest, but this wasn’t simply a matter of a good team frustrated about an off night.
According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Harden blamed officials after the game for calling a lot of things they should not have. A clearly frustrated Harden blamed “bullsh*t calls” as the source of his frustration, then added a familiar complaint we’ve seen from other players so far this season.
“I’m tired of hearing, ‘I made a mistake,’ or ‘I didn’t see it,'” Harden told ESPN. “That’s frustrating when you hear it as a player. I know we all make mistakes, but it’s just frustrating.”
The controversy over officiating fits the narrative of a tense season filled with a number of prominent players getting ejected, but it also minimizes the impact of the outstanding run Harden is currently on. Scoring 50 in consecutive games isn’t a common occurrence in the NBA.
The last player to have consecutive 50-point performances was Kobe Bryant, who had four in a row in March 2007. Michael Jordan had three straight 50-point nights in April 1987. The only other players with back-to-back 50-point games since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976 are Allen Iverson, Antawn Jamison and Bernard King.
That should have been the story. Instead, we’re talking about officiating. Which is something players and officials hope to resolve come February.