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 spectacular multiplayer fight that included the normally mild-mannered Chris Paul and Brandon Ingram stole part of the spotlight shining on LeBron's big landing on the West Coast.
Houston Rockets’ Chris Paul, second from left, is held back by Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, left, as Paul fights with Lakers’ Rajon Rondo, centre obscured, during the second half of an NBA basketball game.Credit:AP
The Houston Rockets stole the rest with a gritty victory.
James scored 24 points in his big debut, but Paul, Ingram and Rajon Rondo all were ejected after trading blows late in the Rockets' 124-115 win Saturday night.
James got several big ovations from a tremendously lively sellout crowd in his first home game since joining the Lakers as a free agent. But that energy might have contributed to the shocking fight that broke out with 4:13 to play.
The Rockets were nursing 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.
The Rockets won, 124-115.Credit:AP
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, while 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."
Lakers coach Luke Walton said his players were playing with extra aggravation after Houston's James Ennis III clotheslined Josh Hart on a flagrant foul four minutes earlier in the fourth quarter.
"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 melee.
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.
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