"Fired up" Rockets lose to the Lakers, 107-97.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets had a rather physical matchup Saturday night, involving several technical fouls, and the ejection of Rockets head coach Ime Udoka.

t. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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One thing has been made clear, LeBron James beef with Dillon Brooks and head coach Ime Udoka is here to stay, so get your popcorn out.

The Los Angeles Lakers (12-9) hosted the Houston Rockets (8-9) at home Saturday night at Crypto.com Arena. With their third matchup in less than a month, the Lakers once again take a 2-1 series lead over Houston. In what should've been a routine matchup between two western conference teams turned into a physical, emotional dog fight.

With the Lakers holding a career 148-88-win loss record against the Houston Rockets, many fans are left wondering why there is so much hostility between these two teams. First, there's been the Dillon Brooks versus LeBron matchup since last season. Second, there's a playoff history between these two organizations dating back to the 2009, 2004, 1999, 1996, 1991, and 1990 playoffs.

Although the Rockets haven't faced the Lakers in the playoffs in nearly 14 years, fans won't forget the way Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets beat Los Angeles with a 4-1 series win in the 1986 Western Conference finals. Saturday night, the defense told the story, and for the Lakers, they finally have a healthy roster.

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Prior to the game on Saturday evening, 84 percent of users on our threads account predicted the Lakers would get the win over the Rockets. They certainly got the victory, and it came in dramatic fashion. When introduced pre-game, Lakers fans made sure they expressed their feelings about Brooks amongst the entire arena. As expected, Brooks received several boos, as he was pumped up by his teammates.

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The LeBron James vs. Dillon Brooks rivalry was on full display

And so much for Lakers head coach Darvin Ham for limiting LeBron James minutes. For the oldest player in the game, 16 points, 1 block, 1 steal, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists in 35 minutes isn't too shabby. In fact, LeBron had several inside baskets in the low post in Dillon Brooks, which resulted in an immediate stare down. While James has downplayed his rivalry with Brooks, the body language speaks for itself.

For James, that prime matchup with Brooks dates back to the first round of the Western Conference playoffs last year. Although he hit some nice shots beyond the perimeter, Brooks finished the night -10 on the floor, with 10 points. In fact, Brooks finished with zero points when guarded by James, and shot 33 percent when guarded by Anthony Davis. If the Lakers can get this version of Davis, LeBron, and their rotational players on a nightly basis, they will be a force to be reckoned with in the west.

James is still performing at a high level

The leader in all-time points, No. 23 is still showing why he's one of the best players in the game. Averaging 24.4 points a game this season, LeBron showed no signs of slowing down at the age of 38. While the Lakers trailed for a better part of the first half, James was turning heads all night. Creating jab step lay ins, backdoor cuts, James put his athleticism on full display. While father time is creeping up, the man is creating 360-degree layup moves over Tari Eason and Jeff Green. Although LeBron had a decent night, he was loving the work his teammates put in beside him.

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Along with LeBron, Anthony Davis showed his defensive prowess, having 5 blocks, 27 points, 3 assists, and 14 rebounds in 37 minutes. With Davis as an elite rim protector, Houston's Alperen Segun finished with 21 points on 8-25 field goal shooting. With 11 steals as a team, the Lakers were able to crash the boards and put up 13 total second chance points. As a whole, the Lakers held the Rockets to just 40.4 percent shooting from the field, and 35.5 percent from long range. For a team that allows opponents to score 114 points a game, the Lakers arguably had their best defensive outing of the season, next to their 100-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers bench steps up massively

With a two man-game with LeBron and Davis, the Lakers had 6 players finish with points in double-figures, including Austin Reaves and Max Christie off the bench. Offensively, the Lakers unit did what they were supposed to do to help out AD and James. Bullying the Rockets in the paint, Hams team utilized the mismatches and got the foul calls they wanted. They finished 19-27 from the free-throw line, compared to the Rockets, who had just 18 free-throw attempts. The return of Vanderbilt and Reddish created a ton of physicality against the Rockets this matchup. Although Houston beat LA on the boards, the Lakers starting five had 31 total rebounds, including 6 from Taureen Prince.

Lebron and Ime Udoka exchange words

It's no secret Ime Udoka was hired to turn the Houston Rockets franchise around after a 22-60 finish last season. With last year's free agency signing of Fred VanVleet, Houston arguably had the steal of the draft with rookie Cam Whitmore and Amen Thompson. Having previous success with the Boston Celtics, it's evident Udoka wants to win. In order to win, the Rockets need to play hard fought basketball and compete night to night. Visibly frustrated by their recent play, the Rockets remain winless on the road. Following a technical foul in the second quarter, Udoka was ultimately ejected late in the game.

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For Laker fans, Brooks and Udoka immediately become the villain since their disputes with the King. A feud that's likely to stay, originated from common foul on Cam Reddish against Tari Eason. From there, Reddish made it known he was upset, which caused tensions to rise on both sides. While words were exchanged between the Rockets head coach the LeBron, Brooks blamed the officiating.

In his 21st season in the NBA, LeBron James seemed rather unbothered by the situation post-game. Bringing in some comedic relief. he even went out of his way to tell the press it looked "rather friendly." While he stated him and Udoka "were talking about how much we enjoyed thanksgiving," both head coaches had harsh words.

Whether the ejection was warranted, the was a clear disrespect felt by Udoka after James walked over to the sidelines. With one more regular season matchup between these two teams in January, tensions will sure be high.

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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter at Ballislife, and a Sports Content Creator on Twitch and TikTok. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.


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