I am almost tempted to write 2000 words on the whole “LeBron gets all the calls” vs “Harden and Paul get away with every dirty trick” dynamic played out in this game, and how sure I am these two teams are destined to meet in the playoffs.
For now I will say simply that the Lakers drove to the basket far more often, scoring 16 more points in the paint, but somehow shot 12 fewer free throws.
There was one play in the first half where Harden was being guarded by Ingram outside the 3-point line with no other players close to them. Harden did some initial jab steps and ball faking, but Ingram didn’t move. I don’t know whether Harden didn’t expect Ingram not to move for the fakes or he did it purposely, but he dipped his shoulder, stepped forward and squarely hit Ingram in the sternum. Ingram bounced backward, flailing his arms like a drunken egret and somehow remained standing. No whistle.
Then Harden drove to his left with Ingram staying at his side all the way to the basket. At that point, another Laker player tried to challenge the shot, so Harden leaned into Ingram just enough to get between the two players for a layup and the foul.
I’ve never seen Ingram, whose range of expression on a basketball court runs the gamut from comatose to viewable in an open coffin, react the way he did as he looked at the ref.
Ingram had never gotten a technical foul in two seasons as an NBA player, so his reaction to Harden and then running back to the melee to throw a punch is inconceivable behavior for him. Ironically, the most amusing moment in the whole incident was the crazy one, Lance Stephenson, rushing in to act as the calming veteran presence.
The problem that no one addressed was the fact that James Ennis clotheslined Josh Hart and didn’t get ejected. Not only was it the most dangerous play in the game, Ennis left his right arm at his side, making no attempt to wrap up Hart’s body and hold him up. Even though he got a flagrant 1, the Lakers were enraged, because the refs were allowing Houston to get away with of all their aggressive tactics.
I can’t tell you how much I missed not having Metta World Peace on the Lakers for this game. I guarantee you, Harden and Paul would not have gotten away with all the crap they pulled in that game.