LOS ANGELES—The NBA IS BACK! The Battle for LA lived up to the pressure and hype, as the Los Angeles Clippers knocked off the Los Angeles Lakers, 112-102 on Tuesday, October 22 at Staples Center. The NBA season tipped off with a thrilling game between Vegas favorites to win an NBA title.
Kawhi Leonard dropped 30 points, six rebounds and five assists in his Clippers debut, pulling away from the Purple and Gold in the fourth quarter. Anthony Davis scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his first game as a Laker, while LeBron James had 18 points to go alongside 8 assists. The Clippers bench proved to be the difference, outscoring the Lakers bench, 60-19.
This rivalry is intense and real. Leonard was actually booed during pre-game introductions, shocking given how the Clippers were the home team. Lakers fans are furious Leonard chose the Clippers this summer. Early on, the Lakers jumped out to a double-digit lead, Davis had his way in the post, while LeBron dunked with authority. The Clippers weathered the Lakers impressive start, the reigning NBA Finals MVP Leonard caught fire hitting one shot after another. The Clippers scored 40 points in the quarter.
Although it’s only one game, the Clippers are eager and poised to dethrone the Lakers as LA’s premiere NBA franchise. Besides having depth and a future Hall of Fame coach in Doc Rivers, the Clippers have Paul George waiting in the wings. The other all-star who joined the Clippers this off-season, is recovering from shoulder surgery, and will return sometime in November.
The Clippers bench was fantastic. Lou Williams scored 21 points. Montrezl Harrell had a double-double in the win, whereas the Lakers struggled to find any consistency in the second half. Lakers Guard Danny Green kept them in the game, draining five 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Lakers new Head Coach Frank Vogel will have to find other ways to generate offense when Davis and James are resting on the bench. The new duo faltered in the second half, going 5 for 18, a measly 11 points. This is a work in progress.
The Lakers were without Kyle Kuzma and Point Guard Rajon Rondo, it will take time to gel. Another potential issue, LeBron is insisting on playing the point, yet many wonder if this is wise. James had several turnovers, seemed too passive at moments when the Lakers needed his scoring. King James is entering his 17th season in the NBA, pundits are wondering aloud if Father-time is catching up? This is preposterous in my opinion. He has another three years at peak performance, it will simply take time.
The Clippers travel to the Bay Area to meet the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, October 24. While the Lakers look to rebound in their home opener on Friday, October 25, when they battle against the Utah Jazz.