First LeBron James, Now James Harden: Why Has the NBA Angered Its Star Players This Christmas?

First there was LeBron James, ticked off by the performance of the officials in the Cleveland Cavaliers' loss to the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day.

Three days later, it was another MVP candidate in James Harden's turn to rage against perceived officiating injustices, after the Houston Rockets surrendered a 26-point lead to lose to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on Thursday night.

The Rockets were still hanging onto a slender advantage with 7.3 seconds remaining when Marcus Smart drew an offensive foul on Harden, who led all scorers with 34 points. That gave Al Horford the chance to win the game with 3.7 seconds remaining, which the Celtics' center accepted. Smart then drew another foul on Harden to end the game.

Just like James on Dec. 25, Harden didn't hold back. "Well, first of all, I'm wondering how do you only have two officials on a national TV game? That's the first question," Harden told ESPN. Mark Lindsay, the third member of the officiating crew, injured his back during the warmups.

"A lot of grabbing, a lot of holding," Harden said of the play that led to Horford's game-winner. "I mean, how else am I supposed to get open? Gotta ask, with two arms wrapped around my whole body."

The most Marcus Smart ending you'll ever see.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 29, 2017

The NBA ruled that James was fouled twice by Kevin Durant in the final 30 seconds of the Cavaliers' nailbiter against the Warriors in Oakland on Christmas Day. James received neither call in his favor. "He fouled me twice, but whatever. What are you going to do about it?" James said postgame. He was still ticked off on Wednesday in practice, before the Cavaliers lost for the third time in four games, this time against the Vince Carter-inspired Sacramento Kings.

Somehow, over the festive season, the NBA has managed to irk perhaps its two best players. Of course, it may not be a coincidence that James and Harden have both gotten frustrated as their teams have embarked on losing runs. The Rockets have now lost four in a row. At Christmas or any other time of the year, referees continue to be a convenient crutch.