HOUSTON • Patrick Beverley has built a reputation for being one of the biggest pests in the National Basketball Association (NBA), an enforcer who is prepared to get in the faces of opponents and throw them off their game.
Russell Westbrook knows more about his gamesmanship than most players.
In 2013, Beverley's foul on the guard led to a torn meniscus, which arguably cost the Thunder a shot at the NBA Finals and earning him a lifetime of boos in Oklahoma City.
Both players have had history since. As recent as last season, they had to be separated on the court after squaring up to each other.
So there was always going to be fireworks when the Houston Rockets welcomed the Los Angeles Clippers for their first meeting of the season on Wednesday night.
James Harden erupted for 17 points out of a game-high 47, including seven three-pointers, in the fourth quarter as the hosts beat the visitors 102-93 at the Toyota Centre.
The 2018 Most Valuable Player helped transform an 84-80 deficit with 5min 52sec remaining into victory, shouldering the bulk of the Rockets' offensive play, with Westbrook (17 points) and Clint Capela (12) his only other teammates to make double figures.
Hailing the NBA's scoring leader - his average of 38.2 points per game is the highest the league has seen in the first 11 games in the past 50 seasons - as "amazing", Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said: "It's not like we haven't seen it before, and we'll see it again.
"He's just a master of the game. It's what I expect. He's a special player, no doubt about it."
And Westbrook cited his fellow All-Star's torching of the Clippers to rip into Beverley's much-vaunted defensive play.
Reigniting their long-running feud, he said: "Pat trick y'all man, like he play defence. He don't guard nobody man.
"He just running around doing nothing... As you seen what happened 47. All that commotion and Harden got 47."
Points per game James Harden has racked up after 11 games, the highest in the NBA for 50 years.
The on-court drama also spilled over to the bench as Clippers coach Doc Rivers was ejected in a surreal exchange late in the fourth quarter which saw his son - Rockets' Austin Rivers - urging officials to toss him.
Joking that he was thrilled to see his dad get removed, the reserve guard told reporters: "It was a really good moment. I enjoyed it a lot. I'm not gonna lie to you."
The Clippers, who were paced by 26 points from Kawhi Leonard, fell to 7-4 with the defeat, while the Rockets improved to 8-3 in the Western Conference.
In Los Angeles, there was some poetry to what happened at the Staples Centre, home to the Lakers and Clippers.
For years, the Golden State Warriors had rolled over opponents, while setting the standard for unselfish, pass-first basketball and leading the NBA in assists for the past five years.
That was not the team the Lakers beat 120-94 on Wednesday night, though. In a role reversal, the hosts (9-2) are the best team in the West when it comes to assists, with aspirations for more, and now they are the ones with championship plans.
The Warriors, on the other hand, have the worst record in the league (2-10) and are off to their worst start since the 1999-2000 season.
With the win, the Lakers are enjoying their best start since the 2010-11 term, and they led by as many as 27 points, and trailed only once at the start of the game despite resting Anthony Davis.
LeBron James led all scorers with 23 points, while D'Angelo Russell paced the Warriors with 21.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA
NEW ORLEANS V LA CLIPPERS
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