Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard had to be separated by teammates as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to an eighth straight defeat with a 115-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
After losing all six of their pre-season games, the Lakers followed up their season-opening reverse to Golden State on Tuesday with another disjointed performance at the Staples Center.
And the tensions within the Lakers’ new-look roster boiled over in the first half when Davis and Howard squared up to each other on the bench during a timeout.
Several Lakers players including LeBron James scrambled to separate the duo, with Davis gesticulating as he was hustled away.
Coach Frank Vogel later played down the altercation, which he said had arisen from a miscommunication on court.
“Dwight and AD had a miscue on a coverage and they talked it out,” Vogel said. “When you’re getting your ass kicked, sometimes those conversations get heated.
“Those guys love each other, they talked it out. And that’s going to happen from time to time — I’d rather our guys care than not care.”
Howard later told reporters he had settled his differences with Davis.
“We squashed it right then and there,” Howard said. “We’re both very passionate about winning and we didn’t want to lose this game. But we’re grown men, we got it out the way. We squashed it.
“There’s no issue between me and him — that’s my brother, my teammate.”
The Lakers led early in the second quarter against last season’s NBA Finals runners-up, but were overwhelmed in the third quarter as the Suns romped into a 32-point lead.
Chris Paul led the scoring for Phoenix with 23 points and 14 assists while Devin Booker had 22 points, with Mikal Bridges adding 21.
James led the Lakers scorers with 25 points while Davis added 22 with 14 rebounds in a losing effort.
Russell Westbrook was one assist away from his first triple double in a Lakers shirt, with 11 rebounds, nine assists and 15 points.
Elsewhere Friday, Kevin Durant scored a 29-point triple-double as the Brooklyn Nets punished a late collapse by the Philadelphia 76ers to bag their opening win of the season.
The Nets appeared to be poised for a second straight loss following their opening defeat to Milwaukee after the Sixers pulled into a 108-98 lead with just five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
But the Sixers’ hopes of extending their unbeaten start to the season evaporated as their shooting accuracy deserted them in the closing stages.
The Sixers made 10 misses as the Nets turned a 10-point deficit into a 114-109 win with a 16-1 scoring run.
Durant finished with 15 rebounds and 12 assists along with his 29-point haul, while LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 23 points and James Harden 20.
Joe Harris added 14 off the bench while Patty Mills chipped in with 11.
The Sixers led for the entire game until their late fourth-quarter collapse, going 14 points clear in the first quarter alone.
But they were unable to respond when Brooklyn turned up the pace in the fourth quarter with a more physical approach.
Nets coach Steve Nash said his team, still adjusting to the absence of Kyrie Irving, unavailable due to his refusal to take a Covid-19 vaccine, had been “relentless” over the closing stage.
“I don’t think there’s anything that we’re going to bottle up and put in a museum from this one, but it was a team effort,” Nash said.
Seth Curry and Tobias Harris led the Philadelphia scoring with 23 points each while Joel Embiid finished with 19.
The Sixers’ preparations had been overshadowed by another twist in the saga surrounding Australian star Ben Simmons, who had informed the club earlier Friday he was not mentally ready to rejoin the team.
Simmons, who was suspended for Wednesday’s season opener, has told the Sixers he wants to leave the club.
Elsewhere on Friday, the New York Knicks made it two wins from two, defeating the Orlando Magic 121-96 in Florida.
Julius Randle, the hero of the Knicks’ double-overtime defeat of the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, finished with 21 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists.