The home opener of the 2018-19 NBA season for the Los Angeles Lakers took a late turn for the worse Saturday night when Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul were all ejected in the fourth quarter. It seemingly shifted momentum as the Houston Rockets went on for a 124-115 win.
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Tempers flared when Ingram shoved James Harden after disagreeing with a foul call. Lance Stephenson managed to intercept the young forward, but Rondo and Paul then exchanged words and punches.
Ingram rushed back into the fracas and threw a punch of his own before he could again be pulled away. Allegations are Rondo spitting in Paul’s face are what caused the brawl.
“The fight was unfortunate,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. “I told the guys, ‘Fights happen in sports but we’ve got to keep our composure, regain our composure, whatever it is.'”
While the focus naturally lied with the fight, Walton pointed to James Ennis III foul just over five minutes prior when he grabbed Josh Hart around the neck area for a hard foul without making a play on the basketball. It was ruled a personal foul on the floor, then upgraded to a flagrant 1 after review.
“The clothesline, like, three minutes prior to that, I saw that, and I have zero idea how that’s a flagrant 1,” said an incredulous Walton.
“He clotheslined our guy. He picked him up off his feet and slammed him on his back. And it was a flagrant 1. That, to me, if I’m a player or teammate, that’s where, ‘OK, if that’s only a flagrant 1, then we can play a little more physical.’
“But I didn’t sense anything too crazy besides our guys were a little irritated that that happened and he wasn’t penalized more.”
As for the details and what exactly led to Paul and Rondo trading blows, Walton didn’t fully observe that as he was writing up a play on his clipboard. “The refs were there,” Walton said. “I figured at that point it was broken up. Then when I looked back up, there was mayhem going on.”
Ingram, Rondo and Paul are each expected to receive lengthy suspensions, with rulings coming as soon as Sunday.