The Houston Rockets played undermanned in their 128-126 overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night. Despite all the drama surrounding superstar James Harden, including being late to training camp and COVID-19 protocol violations, The Beard still put up a virtuoso performance in his season debut.

Harden dropped 44 points and dished out 17 assists, as if it was nothing, proving still that he is one of the premier offensive weapons in the NBA. The former league MVP wasn't surprised by his dominance:

Harden also applauded his team's effort for fighting throughout the game despite having just nine players available:

The Rockets had a couple of players out due to testing positive for the coronavirus. Furthermore, four others, including Eric Gordon and new acquisitions DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall, were out because of mandated quarantine.

Despite all the trade chatter surrounding Harden and his desire to get out of Houston, the 31-year-old superstar still poured it on and tried to lead the Rockets to victory. Unfortunately, his efforts weren't enough to propel Houston to its first win of the season.

Blazers star CJ McCollum matched Harden's output with 44 points of his own. He also nailed the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime that gave Portland the lead with 6.9 seconds remaining. The Rockets had a chance to win with one last shot. However, Harden made a costly error and turned the ball over on the all-important possession, giving the Blazers the clutch victory.

Houston will continue to play shorthanded in its next contest against the Denver Nuggets, but should get reinforcements back by Thursday against the Sacramento Kings. The loss to the Blazers was the Rockets' first game of the season after their opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed due to a lack of available players.