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Harden finished with 54 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds, though it came in a losing effort, as Houston lost 135-131 in overtime.
The Rockets were without Chris Paul, who was nursing a sore left leg, which left Harden as the team's primary playmaker. While normally a dynamic passer, the reigning MVP wasn't his usual self, committing 11 turnovers.
Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver highlighted how those turnovers added to a wild night for Harden.
Ben Golliver @BenGolliver
Rockets' James Harden scores 54 points in OT loss to Wizards - 7th player w/ 50 in 18-19 - 10th career 50-pointer: 2nd among active players (LeBron: 12) & t-8th overall - WAS has conceded 50s to LeBron, Curry & Harden since Nov '17 - NBA's first ever 50P/10A/10TO triple-double https://t.co/aC7q3NpokS
As great as Harden performed Monday, the Rockets have now dropped three games in a row to fall below .500 (9-10).
Houston losing despite Harden going off for 50-plus points could prove to be a microcosm of a season in which the team's lack of depth is by far its biggest issue.