New York—The NBA came down hard on Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram Sunday, suspending him four games while banning teammate Rajon Rondo three games and Rockets guard Chris Paul two for their roles in a fourth-quarter melee.
The league said in a statement that Ingram “has been suspended for aggressively returning to and escalating the altercation and throwing a punch in the direction of Paul, confronting a game official in a hostile manner, and instigating the overall incident by shoving Rockets guard James Harden.
“Rondo has been suspended for instigating a physical altercation with, and spitting and throwing multiple punches at, Paul,” the statement from executive vide president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe said. “Paul has been suspended for poking at and making contact with the face of Rondo, and throwing multiple punches at him.”
Paul was to begin serving his suspension on Sunday, when the Rockets played again at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said before that game that he didn’t think a two-game suspension for Paul was fair.
“It’s just not equitable,” D’Antoni said. “You watch the film, you watch the spit ... I understand he gets maybe one (game). (But) what is he supposed to do -- just stand there and get spit on and then take a punch to the face and say it’s OK?”
Ingram and Rondo will begin serving their suspensions on Monday, when the Lakers host the San Antonio Spurs.
The fight erupted with 4:13 left to play and the Rockets leading 109-108.
Ingram received two technical fouls —one for pushing Harden and the other for punching an unsuspecting Rockets player from behind as he charged back into the kerfuffle.
Paul and Rondo also traded blows, Paul claiming that he had shaken his finger in Rondo’s face after the Lakers player spit at him.
The extraordinary scenes overshadowed LeBron James’s home debut with the Lakers, which ended in a 124-115 Rockets victory.
Meanwhile, Juancho Hernangomez came up with the game-saving block Sunday as the Denver Nuggets held off the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors 100-98 in a thriller in Denver.
The unbeaten Nuggets handed the Warriors their first defeat of the young season, staking their claim to contender status in Western Conference.
The Warriors weren’t the only Western power laid low on Sunday as the Los Angeles Clippers held on for a 115-112 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Less than a week into the season, the Nuggets top the West with a perfect 3-0 record.
Denver led by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors, led by 30 points from Stephen Curry, whittled the deficit, knotting the score at 97-97 with 1:29 remaining.
Three missed free throws by the Nuggets in the final 1:18 opened the door for the Warriors, but the visitors couldn’t take advantage.
Draymond Green had a chance to tie the game when he missed one of two free throws with 10 seconds remaining and the Warriors trailed by two on their final possession.
Curry drove to the rim, drawing two defenders, and passed to Damian Jones.
As Jones rose for the shot, Hernangomez dived in to bat the ball away from behind.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team is not yet firing on all cylinders
“We’re not where we need to be,” said Kerr, whose Warriors led by as many as 12 in the first quarter, and by two at halftime, but were out-scored 33-21 in the third period.
Kerr was pleased with the Warriors’ “competitive juice and spirit” but said their late push was doomed by sloppy play.
“We can’t expect to win every game on emotion,” Kerr said. “We’ve got to win on execution and intelligence. We’ll get there.”
A day after his impressive triple-double against Phoenix, Nikola Jokic scored 23 points with 11 rebounds and six assists for Denver.
Gary Harris added 28 points and the Nuggets forced 18 turnovers in a solid defensive effort against the prolific Warriors.
“We fought through,” Harris said. “We stuck through to the end, we played til the last buzzer.”
Thunder lose on Westbrook’s return
Russell Westbrook showed little sign of rust in his NBA season debut but his 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists weren’t enough to lift Oklahoma City to a first win of the young campaign.
Former NBA Most Valuable Player Westbrook had missed the first two games of the season as he continued his return from arthroscopic knee surgery on September 12.
He started in his customary spot and played 35 minutes— the most of any Thunder starter—but it was the Sacramento Kings who came up with their first win of the season 131-120 in Oklahoma City.
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