James Harden delivered another dynamic performance with his second straight 51-point outing but once again it wasn’t enough as the Houston Rockets lost 118-128 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. The Clippers came on in the second half to offset the heroics of guard Harden, who became the first player since Kobe Bryant in 2007 to register back-to-back 50-point games. He equalled his points total from Wednesday’s 116-122 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Harden finished 15 of 28 from the floor and 15 of 16 from the free-throw line while contributing eight assists in front of a crowd of 18,000 at the Rockets’ Toyota Center arena. On Wednesday, Harden scored his 51 in 43 minutes of playing time — and Friday he did it in 41 minutes as he fouled out with 26 seconds left. But Harden didn’t want to talk about matching the 50-point performances of Bryant on Friday, instead complaining about the officiating.
“I’m tired of hearing, ‘I made a mistake.’ Or, ‘I didn’t see it.’ It’s frustrating as a player. I know we all make mistakes, but it’s frustrating,” he said. Bryant had four 50-point games in a row in March 2007. Michael Jordan strung together three straight 50-point nights in 1987. Harden is also just the second player to score 50 points in back-to-back losses, joining Wilt Chamberlain in the 1962-63 season. Austin Rivers caught fire in the second half and, with some help from Lou Williams, shot the Clippers to victory.
“I had to be aggressive,” Rivers said. Rivers 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 off guard. Williams, traded by Houston in the offseason as part of the blockbuster Chris Paul deal, scored 32 points. Eric Gordon chipped in 28 points for Houston, which closed a season-long seven-game homestand with consecutive losses to the Los Angeles teams.
Nets go wire to wire
Elsewhere, the Brooklyn Nets started quickly, played aggressively and dominated on defence en route to a 119-84 wire-to-wire victory over the struggling Washington Wizards.The Nets used a balanced offensive attack as half a dozen players scored in double figures — including Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who tallied 21 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and swingman Caris LeVert who finished with 17 points and six rebounds.
Brooklyn ended a four-game losing skid with its second a home win over Washington in 10 days. Kelly Oubre had 13 points and guard John Wall added 10 points for the Wizards, who fell to 17-15 on the season. In Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook hit the winning three-pointer with one second left to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Atlanta Hawks 120-117....