THE INGRAM EJECTION — UP UNTIL THE SCENARIO UNFOLDED
Before the ultimate scenario unfolded, the first 43 minutes of the first home Laker game in 2018 brought enormous electricity to the Staples Center that we haven’t seen in years. We were down a point with over 4 minutes left, and could have easily owned this game. The Ingram Ejection is going to cost the Lakers, but what…
Finally, after the Lakers spent years selling hope and their glorious history and transformational potential of their draft picks, they’ve given their fans something real, something proven, in James. He rose to the occasion Saturday night, and he lifted his teammates with him.
THE FIGHT THAT UNFOLDED
Lebron James, as you can expect, was on fire. He brought his excitement, dunks, rebounding, and kept the Lakers within striking distance of the Houston Rockets, an elite team in the West.
And then came the Fisticuffs on Figueroa, a melee that broke out with 4 minutes, 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Houston up by one. “It was a great atmosphere up until that point,” Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony said.
When the dust cleared the Lakers were left to ponder a couple of losses. The Rockets pulled away in the final minutes and ran off with a 124-115 victory, leaving James 0-2 as a Laker and highlighting defensive weaknesses the Lakers must resolve. The other loss is the potentially lengthy suspension forward Brandon Ingram faces after he returned to a scrum he started by shoving Rockets guard James Harden and unleashed a roundhouse punch to the head of Houston’s Chris Paul.
Paul had become incensed when, he claimed, Lakers guard Rajon Rondo spat in his face. Ingram, Paul and Rondo were ejected for throwing punches, which prompted Lakers fans to cheer Rondo, a former enemy. The fans then jeered at Paul, whom fans had wanted to see in a Lakers uniform and haven’t forgiven former NBA Commissioner David Stern for cock-blocking a 2011 trade that would have brought Paul to the Lakers.
CHRIS PAUL, LONG TIME FEISTY BASTARD
This wasn’t the first time Paul has gotten into a confrontation at Staples Center. In January, after the Rockets lost to Paul’s former Clippers team, Paul was one of four players who reportedly tried to access the Clippers’ locker room via back hallways. He tried to continue on-court hostilities against then-Clipper Austin Rivers. Security stopped them from making a full-scale invasion.
NBA fights rarely escalate to the level seen Saturday night, but this was a supercharged occasion. Houston’s James Ennis III had ratcheted tension when he clotheslined Lakers guard Josh Hart with 9:47 left in the fourth quarter, drawing a flagrant foul 1
“Sometimes, tempers flare,” Hart said. Asked if Ennis should have been ejected, Hart again was cautious. “That’s not my call,” he said.
James, who put Paul in a bear hug to try to defuse the incident, said he was trying to be a peacemaker and calm things down. He also said he didn’t see or say anything about what happened to his teammates afterward.
“The atmosphere was great, the fans were extremely excited, we gave them everything that we could,” said James, who led the Lakers with 24 points and contributed five assists and five rebounds. “Wish we could have given them more, get this win. But it was very electric.”
He also said he’s not disappointed with being down by two games. “Understand that we are going to have some struggles, some early struggles. And nobody said it was going to be easy,” he said. “Not disappointed in nothing that we did tonight. Had some miscues down the stretch, had some missed shots, that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
The Lakers’ crumbling after the melee could be curable, part of the learning process for a team that’s still seeking cohesion.
“Offensively, they just kept getting buckets,” Kuzma said. “Something we can get better at starting with me. They kind of picked on me. I need to get better defensively so I don’t get picked on.”
Kuzma was of course highly supportive of Ingram and commented that at the end of the day he’d rather see the fight come out of him and pay the price.
“We got a long way to go to get to the Rockets, to get to a lot of teams in the Western Conference, they’ve been together for so long,” James said. “We will learn from our mistakes and continue to get better.
“We had our chances on Saturday and we will take this opportunity to go over things we could did more,” said James. “We did better, be frustrated at certain things we did, look back on things, but when you wake up tomorrow, it’s a new day. It’s a new possibility and you leave things in the past and get on with tomorrow. As usual, we shall see…
As a long time Laker apologist, I can’t explain this one away other than to say Rondo can’t seem to collect his composure when he needs to. Or perhaps he can collect his composure but just doesn’t want to. They clearly hate each other, Rondo and Paul, so Rondo just waits for opportunities to spit in the face of his nemasis because Paul out-balls him.