LeBron’s home debut marred with fight
Los Angeles — 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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