NBA wrap: James Harden tops 50 points again, gets ejected

While Harden is the first player in 10 years to top 50 points in back-to-back games, Houston didn't manage to win either time.

Clippers' forward Sam Dekker (7) dribbles the ball as Rockets' guard James Harden (13) defends during the third quarter at Toyota Center. - USA Today Sports   -  USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight game, Rockets guard James Harden topped 50 points, and for the second consecutive time out, the Rockets, which began the night with the NBA's best record (25-5), lost a high-scoring affair, this time to the Clippers, 128-118.

Harden hit 15 of 28 shots (6 of 14 behind the arc) to score 51 against the Clippers. He also had 51 points in a 122-116 loss to the Lakers Wednesday. The Rockets star is the first player with consecutive 50-point games since Kobe Bryant did it four games in a row in 2006-07.

Read: Beasley leads Knicks to big win over Celtics

Harden unleashed his usual repertoire of drives, 3s, and other scoring moves, including this nifty step-back 3 at the halftime buzzer.

It's not exactly news that Harden scored 50 points, even in consecutive games. He's such a prolific scorer and so essential to the Rockets' offense it's surprising he doesn't have more 40ish and even 50-something games.

That Houston lost both games because of a lax defense might be a reason to worry. The Rockets blew a 15-point second-half lead, giving up 36 points to Austin Rivers and 32 points to Lou Williams in the loss.

The Rockets' collapse appeared to frustrate Harden, who was ejected for knocking the ball out of a referee's hands in the final minute.

Sure, it's the regular season, and no team can put out max defensive effort, but Houston coach Mike D'Antoni might be thinking about how to address this issue.

STUDS OF THE NIGHT

Austin Rivers had a career-high 36 points to lead the Clippers over the Rockets.

Enes Kanter has played well since going from OKC to the Knicks this season. The 6-11 center tied a season-high with 22 points and added 16 rebounds in a 104-101 loss to the Pistons.

DUD OF THE NIGHT

When he's on, Wizards guard Bradley Beal can score with anyone (23.8 ppg this season). Friday was not one of those nights. Beal shot a dreadful 2 of 15 from the field and finished with four points.

What's Next

Thunder (17-15) at Jazz (15-18) 8 p.m. ET — This would seem to be a matchup of two teams headed in opposite directions, as the Thunder has won nine of 12 games, while the Jazz has lost seven of nine. Yet they're still separated by only 2 1/2 games in the standings.