Rockets stay in LA to face Clippers
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LOS ANGELES -- The Houston Rockets' second game in Los Angeles in two nights will be hard pressed to meet the intensity of the first one.
The Rockets will take on the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night, a day after claiming an electric 124-115 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in LeBron James' home debut.
An on-court fight with just over four minutes remaining Saturday led to the ejection of the Rockets' Chris Paul and the Lakers' Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram.
It is unknown if Paul, a former Clippers player, will face league discipline by the time Sunday's game tips off at 9 p.m. ET.
The Clippers were able to sit back and enjoy the fireworks Saturday night after posting their first victory of the season Friday when they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-92.
For the Rockets, there was no surprise what fueled their victory. James Harden scored 36 points against the Lakers, and Paul had 28 points and 10 assists. It was a much-improved performance from their season opener Wednesday when they gave up 131 points in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
"I would hope that whether we're picking up five-on-five on the playground we'd have a sense of urgency," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said heading into Saturday's game. "I don't think that will change anything."
Unlike the Rockets, the Clippers still are in search of their identity. Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris each scored 26 points in the Clippers' victory over the Thunder, and Harris added 10 rebounds. Lou Williams scored 17 points off the bench for Los Angeles, who defeated an Oklahoma City team without Russell Westbrook (knee).
The Clippers were also much improved in their second game after also losing their season opener. The Clippers fell 107-98 to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.
The Clippers' Luc Mbah a Moute not only played with Paul on the Clippers, both played with the Rockets last season, so there should be some familiarity on both sides.
"We do need to get close this season because there are a lot of new guys and lot of guys coming together for the first time," Mbah a Moute said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "So we need that camaraderie. It's been that way since training camp. It's good. When you have good chemistry, you need to lean on that."
The Clippers have put an emphasis on defense this season, which is why Mbah a Moute was brought back. The defensive-minded backcourt consists of Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley, who will have their hands full, even if Paul is suspended for Sunday's game.
Harden scored just 18 points in the Rockets' season-opening loss, but his 36 on Saturday was more like the player that averaged 30.4 points last season.
While the Clippers are getting offense from Gallinari, Harris and Williams, they are also getting quality minutes from big men Marcin Gortat and 7-foot-3 Boban Marjanovic, who has averaged 15.5 points in two games and has been earning the trust of coach Doc Rivers.
Updated October 21, 2018