A fight erupted in the fourth quarter of LeBron James' home debut with the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Saturday, as Chris Paul, Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo were all ejected in a feisty contest that ultimately saw the Lakers fall 124-115 to the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers may be 0-2, but they showed some fight--literally.
The fight erupted after Ingram shoved James Harden, with Paul and Rondo getting into a heated discussion that boiled over into punches being thrown by Paul and Rondo. Ingram, who had already received a technical foul, decided to run into the scrum and deliver a punch of his own to guarantee his ejection.
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The Rockets led 109-108 when the fight broke out, with a shade over four minutes remaining in the game. The ensuing two technical free throws gave the Rockets a crucial three-point advantage, and Houston relied on Harden to outscore the Lakers 15-7 following the fight.
The night, though, started far more positive, with celebrities packing the stands and a crowd charged up during introductions. James and company faced the Houston Rockets' two-headed monster of James Harden and Paul, with James making his highly anticipated regular season home debut dressed in LA's iconic gold jersey.
James scored the Lakers' first two points of the game, but the Lakers had already dug a seven-point hole before the 33-year-old netted his first official basket at Staples Center for the home team.
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The first quarter laid the groundwork for Harden's big night, with the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player tabbing nine points in the opening 12 minutes before pouring in 14 points in the second quarter for a halftime total of 23 points. The Southern California native ended the night with 36 points to lead the pack.
Thanks in part to contributions from Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Rondo and, of course, James, the Lakers nullified the eye-popping output provided by Paul and Harden early. Paul went into the break with 19 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
Still, the Rockets never truly pulled away, and the two teams were tied eight times, with 14 lead changes in the first 24 minutes. The Rockets held a four-point edge at the break.
James led the Lakers in scoring at the intermission with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists, while Rondo added nine points, four assists and three rebounds before the break.
The third quarter continued the back-and-forth seesaw of the first half, with six lead changes in the penultimate quarter. Paul took the scoring lead from Harden momentarily, and the former LA Clippers' point guard scored nine points in the period to lead all scorers with 28 points and eight assists with 12 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Lakers, meanwhile, spread the scoring out and had six different players scoring in double figures before the end of the third quarter--led by James' 18 points at that stage.
For the second game in a row, an unlikely opponent off the bench caused damage to LA's hopes of getting its first victory of the 2018-19 season. While Nik Stauskas had killed the Lakers off the Blazers' bench of Thursday, Gerald Green assumed that role for the Rockets.
After three quarters, Green was 5-5 from the field for 13 points in 15 minutes off the Rockets' bench.
The fourth quarter featured the Rockets building a six-point lead almost immediately, but a flagrant foul on James Ennis III for wrapping his arm around Hart's neck helped the Lakers cut the Rockers' momentum on the scoreboard.
Lakers coach Luke Walton pointed to that Flagrant 1 foul as possibly leading to the fight minutes later. Hart, after the game, said he thought that Ennis should have been ejected, and Walton said the same.
At the five-minute mark, though, the Rockets only led by a single point, but then a basketball game turned into a fight. Paul was ejected from the game with 28 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Ingram hit the showers with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes, while Rondo left the floor with 13 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Down the stretch, however, Harden managed to put the ball in the bucket and claim victory for the visitors. The MVP finished with 36 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the victory, while James ended his Lakers' home debut with 24 points on 9-22 shooting from the field, five assists and five rebounds.
Notes: Ball finished the night shooting 4-8 from three-point land and 14 points to lead all bench scorers on both teams. With suspensions to Rondo and Ingram likely, Ball should slot into the starting lineup.