Originally Published: February 25, 2014

1. James Harden's 43 Points Top Royal Meltdown

By James Ham | TrueHoop Network

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- While Dwight Howard strutted around the Rockets' locker room doing his best Charles Barkley impersonation, James Harden sat quietly in the corner with ice bags on his knees and his feet soaking in a giant bin of ice water.

You would never know that the 24-year-old wing had just single-handedly destroyed another NBA team on its home floor. As he sat with his camo headphones on, looking as though he didn't have a care in the world, the Sacramento Kings were a few hundred feet away, dealing with yet another DeMarcus Cousins meltdown.

James Harden
Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/Getty ImagesJames Harden scored 43 points before resting the entire fourth quarter.

It was all Harden, from start to finish in this one. After scorching the Kings for 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the first quarter, he fell three points shy of his career-best 46 points.

If only Rockets coach Kevin McHale would have let him play in the fourth quarter.

"He just took over," Howard said of Harden. "He hit a lot of 3s, got to the free throw line and he attacked the basket, which we need him to do all game."

The Rockets led by as many as 31 points in the first half and continued to keep the pressure on Sacramento for the entire game.

"We got on them early and got a big lead and kept it all game," McHale said. "It was a great start by the guys, their defense was solid, they got out and ran, and James had a phenomenal first quarter and a great game."

It was a tale of two teams headed in decidedly different directions. While Harden was running a layup drill and Howard was dominating the post, the Kings were falling apart at the seams like they have done countless times this season.

Cousins tried to will his team back into this game in the second quarter, finishing the first half with 16 points and five rebounds. But Sacramento still trailed 69-51.

Harden continued his assault on the Kings' defense in the third, and Cousins began to lose his cool. After picking up a questionable touch foul on a missed layin by Howard, the fourth-year center picked up his 14th technical foul of the season for jawing at veteran official Courtney Kirkland.

Before coach Michael Malone could get his center out of the game, Cousins picked up his fifth foul and the wheels were falling off. Malone called a timeout and pulled his big man from the game at the 8:21 mark of the third, but it was too late; the fuse had been lit.

While Malone asked for an explanation from Kirkland, an agitated Cousins had to be restrained by Kings assistant coach Corliss Williamson. The outburst was too much. Cousins picked up his 15th technical and headed to the locker room for an early shower, but not before making quite the scene on the Kings' sideline.

"It's an emotional game, and I'm pretty sure when we play against each other, it's very emotional," Howard said. "He wants to win. He wants to play his best, so he let his emotions get the best of him tonight."

Cousins is just one technical away from earning a one-game suspension. Emotions or not, the Kings are 0-8 on the season without their star center. If he wants to be an elite center in the NBA, he needs to learn that he is hurting his team with each and every one of these outbursts.

With a marquee matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday at Staples Center, the Rockets got just what the doctor ordered -- an easy win in Sacramento. McHale rested his stars most of the second half and went deep to his bench.

"It's going to be a big game [Wednesday] night," McHale told reporters after the game. "We've been on the road for a while now. It's the last game of a five-game road trip, we're 3-1, and we have to go in and play a good Clippers team."

The Rockets are third in the Western Conference standings and riding high on their way to the playoffs, while Sacramento is headed for another turn in the lottery and left wondering when Cousins will grow up.

James Ham's work appears regularly on Cowbell Kingdom, part of the TrueHoop network.

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