No NBA team has less of a right to complain about refereeing than the Houston Rockets, given how its two biggest stars have bought property in the gray areas of the rulebook. Chris Paul is a notorious flopper and instigator, while James Harden is James Harden, flailing his way to the line a million times per game.
And yet. Both Paul and Harden complained audibly about the refereeing in Thursday night’s 111-106 loss to the Lakers, with most of their whining aimed at 20-year veteran official Scott Foster. The two Rockets stars fouled out, with Harden committing a comical four offensive fouls, three of them in the second half, including the one that got him thrown out with 1:24 remaining in the game and the Lakers up by six.
Watching all of Harden’s fouls, you could only really argue against his third, and that’s only if you judge Harden by superstar levels and not what would get called on everyone else in the league:
He definitely sends his arm out flying there, making contact with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. His fourth foul was similar; his hand connected with Rajon Rondo’s face at midcourt.
After the game, Harden blamed the loss almost exclusively on Foster, saying he believes the ref is “rude and arrogant,” and adding he knows he’s risking a fine by complaining, but he believes Foster should not officiate Rockets games:
Paul—the president of the NBA Players Association—went further in his critique, saying he has used his union position to lobby to the league against Foster:
The bigger problem for Houston was LeBron dominating them in the second half, leading a Lakers comeback from 19 down in the third quarter. He also embarrassed three different Rockets on a vintage jam to cut the lead to three late in the game:
Harden did keep his ludicrous streak of 30-point games alive before fouling out; The Beard finished with exactly 30, pushing that streak to 32 straight games.