Houston Rockets top LA Lakers as tempers flare late

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Rajon Rondo
Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo aims to throw a left hand punch at Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul during a fight in the fourth quarter of the game at Staples Center. -- JAYNE KAMIN-ONCEA-USA TODAY SPORTS

LOS ANGELES — James Harden scored 36 points and Chris Paul added 28 points with 10 assists as the visiting Houston Rockets spoiled LeBron James’ home opener with the Los Angeles Lakers by earning a high-intensity 124-115 victory Saturday night.

Three players were ejected with 4:13 remaining after an on-court altercation that started after the Lakers’ Brandon Ingram committed a hard foul on Harden. After the whistle, Paul and the Lakers’ Rajon Rondo threw punches at each other, with Ingram also joining the fray. Paul, Rondo, and Ingram all were ejected.

The Rockets closed out their first victory and showed improved defense after giving up 131 points in a season-opening defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

James scored 24 points on his new home floor, adding five rebounds and five assists. James, who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, signed a four-year, $154 million deal with the Lakers in the offseason.

James’ first home field goal with the Lakers came on a pull-up jumper with 10:02 remaining in the first quarter. His first dunk came as he cut into the lane with 7:03 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Lakers remain in search of their first victory with James, losing 128-119 in their season opener at Portland on Thursday. JaVale McGee had 16 points for the Lakers on Saturday, while Lonzo Ball added 14, hitting four 3-pointers. Rondo had 13 points and 10 assists.

Harden and Paul took charge from the outset for the Rockets. Harden had 23 points at halftime, making eight free throws. Paul had 19 points in the first two quarters, making seven free throws.

Houston shot 18 free throws in the first half to the Lakers’ seven as the Rockets led 66-62 after two quarters. Clint Capela finished with 19 points and had 12 rebounds for the Rockets, while Gerald Green scored 13.

The Rockets led 109-108 at the time of the on-court confrontation and put the game away afterward, getting a key 3-pointer from PJ Tucker with 2:31 remaining for a 117-112 lead. Harden added a 3-pointer of his own with 1:12 remaining to give Houston a 120-113 lead. — Reuters