ORLANDO, FL—The much anticipated return of NBA basketball in Orlando at the arena at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports resulted in a thrilling 103-101 victory for the “home” team Los Angeles Lakers over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, July 30. LeBron James scored the game winning put back shot with 13 seconds left in the game to hand the very game and shorthanded  Clippers the tough defeat. Anthony Davis led all scorers with 34 points looking like he hadn’t missed a beat during the extended layoff.

James had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. While X factor, Kylie Kuzma scored 16 points off the bench. This is the first of eight regular season games before the playoffs begin. The top seeded Purple and Gold have a 6.5 game lead over the Clippers following the win.

The Clippers were without Montezl Harrell and Lou Williams, neither of whom has been  cleared to play. The Clippers sloppy play contributed to 21 turnovers.

The return of basketball has been built around the concept of the “bubble” at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando where players stay in the compound to avoid spreading or contracting COVID-19. They are playing games with no fans in attendance. Virtual reality images of fans on display was a testament to how much the NBA has  missed, as well as loyalty.

The innovative approach seems like the ideal prototype for sports to continue in 2020 and the NBA should be given credit for a well thought out plan. Another area where the NBA has scored a slam dunk is an approach to the social unrest sweeping the country. Painted near center court is a bold, all caps BLACK LIVES MATTER. In addition, most players wore a slogan supporting racial equality on the back of their jerseys.

As far as the game itself the players were a little rusty, including by his own admission King James. This was to be expected since the last NBA games were played in March. In spite of the rust it was an evenly matched, exciting game. Paul George led the Clippers with 30 points, including the game tying 3-point shot with under a minute left in the contest. Kawhi Leonard added 28 points. LeBron James played smothering defense on Paul George as a potential 3-point shot went awry as the final buzzer sounded.

The Battle for Los Angeles is tied after four games in the regular season. An NBA championship is certainly within reach for both Los Angeles teams.