Once the fists started flying late in the fourth quarter, LeBron James’ home debut with the Los Angeles Lakers was relegated to the undercard.
A wild multiplayer fight that included the normally mild-mannered Chris Paul and Brandon Ingram stole part of the spotlight shining on LeBron’s official landing on the West Coast.
The Houston Rockets stole the rest with a gritty victory.
James scored 24 points, but Paul, Ingram and Rajon Rondo all were ejected after trading blows late in the Rockets’ 124-115 win Saturday night.
Slow-mo of Rondo duffing Chris Paul (via @i) pic.twitter.com/WmtL2AwudO
— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) October 21, 2018
Before the late drama overshadowed everything, James got several big ovations from a tremendously lively sellout crowd in his first home game since joining the Lakers as a free agent.
WHERE WAS STATE FARM ?!
— Crippy Teigen (@vincestaples) October 21, 2018
“The atmosphere was great,” James said. “The fans were extremely excited. We gave them everything that we could. Wish we could have gave them more with this win, but it was very electric.”
But perhaps that energy — and a flagrant foul by Houston’s James Ennis III against Josh Hart earlier in the fourth quarter — contributed to the shocking fight that broke out with 4:13 to play.
😂 Floyd Mayweather enjoying his courtside seats at the CP3 vs Rondo fight!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 21, 2018
The Rockets were clinging to a 109-108 lead when Ingram was called for a foul while trying to defend an aggressive drive by James Harden, who finished with 36 points.
Furious with the call, Ingram shoved Harden and then confronted referee Jason Phillips after getting a technical foul.
In the ensuing group argument, Paul stuck a finger into the face of Rondo, who responded by punching his fellow point guard. Ingram then threw punches in the melee. James attempted to break up the fight by grabbing Paul, his friend.
Paul claimed Rondo caused their fight by spitting on him.
“Unacceptable,” Houston’s Carmelo Anthony said. “We all know what happened. Ain’t no need to keep going back and forth about that. What happened was unacceptable. It shouldn’t have happened.”
Rondo’s teammates said they didn’t know whether Paul’s claim was accurate. Lakers coach Luke Walton said his players were playing with extra aggravation after Ennis clotheslined Hart on a flagrant foul 4 ½ minutes earlier.
“I felt like the other team was trying to provoke us, and we fell for it,” said the Lakers’ Lance Stephenson, another peacemaker in the brawl.
When tempers cooled after a nearly 10-minute break, Houston finished the game on a 15-8 run. Harden hit a key 3-pointer with 1:12 left to propel the Rockets to their first win of the season.
Rondo with the left 👀 pic.twitter.com/1IN0v7InlF
— Vincent Samperio (@VinceSamperio) October 21, 2018
“We played amazing tonight, and I feel like the fight probably put us back,” said JaVale McGee, who had 16 points and six rebounds in his own Lakers home debut. “If there wasn’t the fight, we probably would have won that game.”
Paul had 28 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds before getting tossed. Clint Capela had 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Anthony scored seven points off the bench as Houston rebounded from an embarrassing season-opening loss to New Orleans.
Rondo had 13 points and 10 assists before getting thrown out. LeBron also had five rebounds and five assists, but he went 1 for 8 in the fourth quarter, missing all three of his 3-point attempts.
“Yeah, James was James. That’s what he does,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I thought it was a great game. It had some intensity and quickness, and how fast it was.”
Rockets: Harden got a technical foul in the second quarter when he halfheartedly shoved Stephenson, who sold it impressively. … Houston hasn’t lost a season series with the Lakers since 2010-11. … Gerald Green scored 13 points.
Lakers: Ingram had 12 points before his ejection. … Rookie C Moe Wagner wasn’t ready for his home debut while he recovers from a bruised left knee. … Lonzo Ball showed off his retooled jumper with four 3-pointers and 14 points.
The fight could leave with both teams without key rotation players due to suspension. NBA fights rarely get serious enough for the punches thrown by the principals in this brouhaha, and league discipline executive Kiki VanDeWeghe was actually in attendance.
The Rockets are staying in LA to play the Clippers on Sunday night, and Houston coach Mike D’Antoni laughed at the possibility of a suspension for CP3.
“I don’t know, I might rest him (on a) back-to-back,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll see what the NBA says.”
The Lakers dropped to 0-2 after James’ West Coast chapter formally began Thursday with a 128-119 road loss to the Trail Blazers. James scored 26 points in Portland, but the Lakers’ team vibe could take many weeks to solidify before they can compete regularly with veteran playoff-contending rosters.
The Rockets are a few months removed from reaching Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, and they’ve added Anthony to their attack.
“We’ve got a long way to go to get to the Rockets, to get to a lot of teams in the Western Conference,” James said. “They’ve just been together for so long. We’ll learn from our mistakes and get better.”
Kings End Celtics 10-Game Winning Streak Behind Buddy Hield’s 35-Point Effort
After losing on opening night to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics reeled off 10-straight wins, vaulting themselves to the top of the Eastern Conference.
That winning streak couldn’t last forever though and it ended on Sunday at the hands of Buddy Hield and the Sacramento Kings.
Playing without star point guard De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento relied on Hield to take on an even bigger role in the offense and his hot shooting propelled the Kings to the victory.
Hield put together his first 30-point effort of the season, dropping 35 points on 14-of-24 shooting. Hield’s game is always predicated on the three-point shot and he was on fire from downtown against Boston, making seven threes.
The Celtics top scorer was Jaylen Brown, as he had 18 points to lead Boston. In the end though, the Celtics shot just 33% from three-point range and did not do enough offensively to get the win.
Both of Boston’s losses this season have come on the road, as they still hold a perfect 5-0 record at TD Garden to start the year. Right now they are in the midst of a five-game west coast trip, with three games left to be played.
The Celtics will finally return home a week from Monday, when they will get a chance to get some revenge as Hield and the Kings come to their arena to finish of their season series.
Warriors Down to Nine-Man Roster After D’Angelo Russell’s Latest Injury
The Golden State Warriors can’t seem to catch a break, as they have been stuck with the injury bug dating back to the NBA Finals this summer.
Klay Thompson and Steph Curry highlight the list of injured Warriors, but that list just continues to grow.
D’Angelo Russell has been tasked with filling the scoring void left by the ‘Splash Brothers’, recently dropping 52 points last Friday. Now Russell is on the inactive list too though, after injuring his thumb.
Without Russell the Warriors rotation is getting really thin, as they are down to just nine healthy players on their roster.
The Warriors can’t afford to get into foul trouble on any night, or they will seriously run the risk of running their few healthy players into the ground.
Golden State has gone from being on top of the NBA for the last five years, to all of a sudden being the worst team in the league. Their 2-11 record is the worst mark in the NBA.
Maybe with a healthy Steph and Klay, the Warriors can get back to their winning ways next season, but for now it appears Golden State’s dynasty is over.
Paul George Drops 33 Points in Clippers Debut
The Los Angeles Clippers have looked pretty good so far this year, adding Kawhi Leonard to a roster that pushed the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs last year.
Still, the Clippers have yet to realize their full potential, as we all seemed to forget that they acquired two superstars this offseason, not one.
Trading for Paul George was the linchpin in the Clippers acquiring Leonard, as Kawhi wanted to play with another superstar.
George missed the first 11 games of the season, recovering from shoulder surgery, but finally hit the floor on Thursday night.
George was inserted into the starting lineup in Kawhi’s place against the New Orleans Pelicans, as he was resting his sore knee.
Despite the Clippers limiting him to just 24 minutes, George dropped 33 points in his Clippers debut, shooting an efficient 10 of 17 from the field.
George shot 3-for-5 from three-point range and was a perfect 10-for-10 at the free throw line.
Throughout the entire night, George showcased the scoring prowess that made many people pick the Clippers as the favorites to win a championship this year.
Unfortunately for George, Jrue Holiday spoiled his debut, scoring a game-high 36 points to lead the Pelicans to a victory.
Holiday was the best player on the floor on this night, stealing the ball from George three times in the game’s final minutes to seal a victory for New Orleans.
Derrick Favors had a great game for the Pelicans as well, putting together the rare 20-point, 20-rebound, double-double.
While the Pelicans won the game, the Clippers have to be happy with the way George looked, especially since Leonard wasn’t on the floor.
Los Angeles still has 70 games left in the season to fully integrate the superstar tandem of Leonard and George, with a core that includes gritty players like Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley.
Now that everyone is healthy, it should be fun to watch the Clippers gel together as one of the best teams in the NBA.
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