Rockets Fight LA, Leave with Split Decision

Chris Paul was suspended two games for a fight Saturday. On Sunday, the Rockets lost without him.
Chris Paul was suspended two games for a fight Saturday. On Sunday, the Rockets lost without him. Photo by Jeff Balke
Sparks always seem to fly in the Staples Center, and we're not talking about the Lakers WNBA counterpart. Last season, there was the infamous tunnel incident where Rockets players allegedly tried to enter the locker room of the Clippers after a game in LA. This year, it was the same building, but a different team. On Saturday night, the Rockets beat the Lebron James and the Lakers 124-115, but they lost Chris Paul thanks to a fight in the fourth quarter.

After Lakers forward James Ingram shoved James Harden in the back, guard Rajon Rondo and Paul got into it in a wild altercation after Rondo spit in Paul's face. Ingram jumped back into the fracas and all three had to be separated. The end result was a four-game suspension for Ingram, three games for Rondo and two for Paul.

As a result, the quality (never mind first) win of the season for the Rockets was marred by the incident and Paul's suspension. And there may have been a bit of a hangover into Sunday. Less than 24 hours later, the Rockets were back in Staples Center, this time taking on LA's other team, the Clippers.

The Clippers, who are not expected to be a very good team this year, seemed to have more energy than the Rockets and Houston's bench was badly outplayed. Despite a furious rally in the fourth quarter to close within three points, the Rockets fell 115-112 after a final attempt by Harden was long. They leave LA with a split and head into the second week of the season 1-2.

In the first three games of the season, there have been some chemistry issues on the floor and, while the perimeter defense hasn't been terrible, the Rockets are allowing far too many points in the paint. The Rockets are dead last in points allowed in the paint, giving up an unreal 70 per game.

Granted, the NBA seems revved up this season offensively thanks to some of the tweaks to rule changes and it is unlikely the Rockets will remain this bad throughout the season in the paint, but something will certainly have to change.

The Rockets return home this week for three games against Utah, the Clippers (again) and Portland. Remarkably, Utah has been nearly as bad defensively as Houston, but they will have to face the Jazz without Paul who will miss one more game. Hopefully, when he returns, they can get on track, particularly on defense.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke