Harden scores 44 in loss, grades debut 'all right'

2:16 AM ET

Fresh off a four-day forced quarantine, which followed weeks of his desire to be traded dominating headlines, Houston Rockets superstar James Harden had a performance Saturday night that reminded people why he is a perennial MVP candidate.

It just wasn’t quite enough to carry an extremely short-handed Houston team, missing six players because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing, to a victory in the Rockets’ delayed season opener.

Harden had 44 points and 17 assists while playing 43 minutes in the 128-126 overtime loss to the host Portland Trail Blazers. The only blemish in Harden’s line in the box score was his four turnovers, including one in the final seconds that sealed the defeat, when Blazers forward Robert Covington stole a pass after Harden drove down the lane and tried to dish to a teammate.

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“It was all right,” Harden said of his performance, which included shooting 12-of-22 from the floor and 6-of-13 from 3-point range. “Too many turnovers. But other than that, first game playing 40-something minutes, I feel like my conditioning could be better, obviously, but it was pretty solid. I think we let them get away from us.”

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