The LA Clippers fell 101-103 to their hallway rival Lakers in their opening game of the NBA restart. Despite being without key bench duo Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, the Clippers still managed to keep the game close. The Lakers were without Rajon Rondo who is out injured, as well as Avery Bradley who opted out of the restart.
It was a nail biting game with the Lakers throwing the opening punches. They did a great job of force feeding Anthony Davis early and showing the Clippers they had no match for number three. The Lakers were up 35-23 after the first quarter as a result.
With Davis on the bench, the Clippers clawed their way back into the game (no pun intended). Paul George looked sharper than he’d ever looked in a Clipper uniform thus far, finishing with 30 points on 11/17 shooting and 6/11 from deep. He was hitting threes with ease and pulling up from everywhere. He was completely in his bag. Despite poor shooting from everyone other than Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Patterson, the Clippers found themselves down just two points at halftime, 52-54.
To start the third quarter, they came out of the break firing on all cylinders led by George. They took the lead and extended it to 11 points, 66-55. The Lakers took a timeout. Subsequently, they immediately responded with five quick points of their own to get back in it.
Throughout the game, the Clippers had no answer for Anthony Davis, who hit huge shots in the fourth quarter to give the Lakers the lead again. Davis was also helped by bench players Kyle Kuzma and Dion Waiters, who chipped in with stellar performances. Kuzma played as good of defense as I’ve seen him play his entire career. He was working hard, fighting through screens, and being physical. Waiters helped with the offensive load, hitting some key jumpers and even getting to the basket for some points as well.
The Lakers hit back to back threes and looked like they were en route to a comfortable victory after going up 91-80. However, Patrick Beverley, who was on a minutes restriction and was questionable to play, hit a couple of shots to cut the deficit down to seven. LeBron James, who the Clippers did a good job of guarding all night, played as good of defense as he has played in years. Leonard and James took turns checking each other all game long.
As the game went down to the wire, Paul George hit a big three to make it a one point game. James then drove in on Jamychal Green and scored to put the Lakers up 3. However, George responded with a huge three to tie the game at 102.
But this time, James would have the last laugh. As he attempted to drive and was hand checked by Marcus Morris, James felt contact and threw up a shot hoping for a foul. The miss was short and LeBron did a great job of following his own shot to give the Lakers the two point lead. On the last possession, Leonard tried his signature step back, but LeBron did a good job of staying on balance. The ball was kicked to George, who had James switch onto him. James hand checked George, who felt contact the same way LeBron did, and hoisted up a miss as the buzzer sounded. The refs were consistent by not giving George the call that James also didn’t get, and the Lakers tied the series at two games a piece with a 103-101 win.
For the Clippers, Leonard and George carried far too much of the offensive load. That was to be expected with the absence of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Outside of George and Leonard, the Clippers combined for 14/41 shooting. A big reason for that is obviously rust. The main objective for the Clippers is to get everyone back in rhythm in these last seven games. And that means getting the whole team (Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell) back together as soon as possible.
For the Lakers, LeBron didn’t have his best game, only shooting 6/19 and finishing with 16 points. However, he made the winning plays to get them across the finish line in the end. That is what matters.
My pick for player of the game is Anthony Davis. He finished with 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists to lead the Lakers to victory.
Each game between the Clippers and Lakers was played with playoff intensity this season. Before the season, these two teams were the center of all discussion. Fans all over the league are now anticipating a rematch between these two Staples Center tenants. If they get their wish, the stakes will be as high as ever. The Clippers and Lakers have never met in a playoff series. This season could very well be the first time.