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Lakers can’t overcome early foul trouble, fall after fourth quarter explosion from James Harden and Rockets

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James Harden drew foul after foul (while hitting some crazy shots) to help the Rockets beat the Lakers in Houston.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t get their road trip off to an ideal start. After getting into early foul trouble, the Lakers were unable to keep up with the Houston Rockets thanks to a vintage performance from James Harden, who went nuclear down the stretch.

The Rockets haven’t looked like the team that made the NBA Western Conference Finals last season, but they have looked pretty good in their two wins against the Lakers and still have one of the scariest backcourts in the league with Chris Paul and James Harden on the roster. Paul had a quietly efficient night, scoring 14 points on 3-10 shooting from the field, while Harden looked like the reigning league MVP.

In 32 minutes against the Lakers, Harden dropped a game-high 50 points on an efficient 14-26 shooting from the field. He also went 18-19 from the charity stripe and logged 11 assists, 9 rebounds and 2 steals in a superlative effort.

But while Harden was impressive, the Lakers put up very little resistance with the game on the line. In fairness to them, playing defense on Harden is difficult because he gets a whistle every time someone breathes on him.

With some help from the officials, the Lakers sent the Rockets to the free-throw line 32 times (where the Rockets made 27 of their attempts). Meanwhile, the Lakers went 15-27 from the charity stripe, which won’t result in a win on very many nights.

The Western Conference playoff race has been so tight this season that the Rockets, who came into Thursday’s game with the second-worst record in the West, are now just two games back of the No. 8 seed following their win. That’s one scary eighth seed if they can get it together.

The Lakers will be back at it on Saturday, when they pay a visit to the Charlotte Hornets. We’ll see you see then.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.