Somehow, the events that led to this fistfight started out with wayward bozo Lance Stephenson as one of the players trying to keep the peace. When Houston’s 124-115 win was still a one-point game Saturday night, Lakers forward Brandon Ingram shoved Rockets guard James Harden in the back after a foul. As Stephenson and other players de-escalated that confrontation, opposing point guards Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul got in each others’ faces, then threw hands. Spit might have been involved.
Here’s a clip of the ESPN broadcast as it happened, as well as a few replays from different angles. Oh, there are so many angles to dissect. Try to spot Travis Scott getting far too excited when players start swinging.
There’s another view, courtesy of Spectrum SportsNet, from the baseline which provides the best uninterrupted footage of the Rondo-Paul fight. After Stephenson pulls Ingram away, Rondo walks up to Paul, who’s talking to an official. The Rockets point guard redirects his attention to his counterpart. At 0:26, Paul crosses his arms but quickly uncrosses them, because Rondo has done something to piss him off to the point where Paul sticks his fingers in his eyes. Rondo hits him with a punch and follows up with a couple more swings; an official briefly tries to restrain the Lakers point guard before he realizes there are much stronger people on the court who can do that. Ingram circles back from his area of solitude to punch Paul when he isn’t looking.
After the game, Paul and the Rockets were adamant that Rondo instigated the brawl by spitting in Paul’s face, which would’ve happened right after Paul crossed his arms in that video. There was no visible spit in the clips, but Paul wiped his face right before he poked Rondo in the eye. Rachel Nichols relayed Team Spit’s story:
Per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Carmelo Anthony—who was right next to Paul—and head coach Mike D’Antoni backed up the existence of spit, although the latter was nowhere near the fight when it went down.
But Adrian Wojnarowski reported a rebuttal from Team No Spit, and played up the fact that Paul and Rondo have hated each other for years:
Even Paul’s and Rondo’s families got into some shit:
Paul and Rondo were ejected; Ingram was issued two technical fouls and disqualified. NBA Executive Vice President Kiki VanDeWeghe, who determines league punishments, was already at the game. There’s reason to expect at least a suspension for Ingram.