It’s too early for James Harden to hear the MVP chants that became familiar at Toyota Center last season. But on Thursday night, he played like one.

In a game that saw the Rockets struggle to get their offense going while at times doing little to slow down the Lakers, Harden was a bright spot.

His 35 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals were highlights in a sluggish overall performance by the team.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and the Rockets suffered their first home loss of the season, 99-98 to the Lakers.

Harden led the Rockets on several runs in the third and fourth quarters, helping them rally from a double-digit first-half deficit to take the lead.

With 12.9 seconds left, the Rockets had a 98-96 lead and the ball. Harden sized up an open look near the free-throw line but missed, leading to a Pau Gasol rebound and timeout. That set the stage for Lakers guard Steve Blake, who with 1.3 seconds remaining got free on an inbounds play and buried the game-winning 3-pointer.

“That was the plan,” Harden said. “For me to do what I do and take us to victory. But I missed the shot. I missed a nice pull-up. We relied on our defense to stop them on the other end, but we didn’t.”

Regardless of the miss that could have sealed a win, Harden was able to spark the team when needed.