The LA Clippers have erased all question marks from a troubling preseason by trouncing the LA Lakers 116-109 on the opening night of the 2020-21 NBA campaign. Ty Lue's men raced off to the paces in the first quarter itself and led throughout the game to secure a convincing win over the defending champions.
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were the wreckers in chief as the duo combined for a whopping 59 points. In comparison, LeBron James and Anthony Davis only managed 40 points together with both players accounting for four turnovers apiece.
The game was preceded by the LA Lakers' ring ceremony for winning the 2020 NBA Championship and the LA Clippers eventually played spoilsport. On that note, here are the five talking points from the game.
#1 LA Clippers leave their shooting woes behind
The biggest issue for the LA Clippers in the preseason was that they lacked rhythm on offense. The ball movement was missing and as such, they were forced to take bad shots. All those things were rectified in the season opener against LA Lakers.
The passing was on point and they managed to create good looks for the majority of the game. Thanks to solid offense and impressive defense, the LA Clippers rushed to a 39-19 lead in the first quarter and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the evening. The likes of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Serge Ibaka, and Patrick Beverley all contributed towards this early domination.
#2 Contrasting fortunes for LA Lakers debutants
The LA Lakers had Marc Gasol, Wes Matthews, Dennis Schroder, and Montrezl Harrell making their competitive debuts for the franchise in this tie. While it was a forgettable affair for the first two, the last two balled out.
Gasol, in particular, had a woeful outing. The LA Clippers forwards extracted fouls out of him every time he was on the court. He ended with a solitary rebound and assist while accumulating five fouls in 10 minutes of playing time. Matthews, meanwhile, was dominated entirely by Leonard on defense and didn't do much going forward.
In comparison, the two best sixth men from last year ended with a double-double apiece. Schroder struggled from the field but managed 14 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists. Harrell brought the energy inside the paint and on the offensive boards as he finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
#3 Turnovers a problem for both sides
Both the LA Clippers and LA Lakers tried to push the pace on offense and as such, turned the ball over way too many times. The only difference is that the latter did it more often in the crucial stages of the game. The Purple and Gold had 19 turnovers including six in the first quarter which allowed Kawhi and co. to dominate them from the get-go.
For the LA Clippers, these turnovers largely came in the second quarter. The Purple and Gold doubled down on defense and forced the issue on their rivals to get back into the game. The LA Lakers didn't learn from their mistakes in the first half though and eventually gave their opponents the upper hand in the second.
#4 LA Lakers avoid two injury scares
Late in the second half of the game, LA Lakers faced two potential injuries as LeBron James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope struggled on the court. Funnily enough, both incidents involved LA Clippers' Ivica Zubac, though he wasn't at fault in either case.
Firstly, LeBron rolled his left ankle while trying to jump over Zubac for a rebound. He moved gingerly for a while before tightening his shoelaces and carrying on. Later on, KCP's left calf collided with Zubac's lower leg on a screen and the former immediately went down. He was also able to return to the game after a bit of stretching with the help of the LA Lakers support staff.
#5 Paul George leads the way for LA Clippers
Paul George showed shades of his MVP caliber season with the OKC Thunder from two years ago in the second half against the LA Lakers. George didn't offer much on offense early on and also had a Shaqtin-a-fool moment when he passed the ball straight at an official during a possession.
PG13 came back strongly after half time and led the LA Clippers' charge. He managed 26 points in the second half including 15 in the third quarter on 6-of-6 shooting. He ended the game with 33 points on only 18 attempts. If he can keep up this level of play, the LA Clippers will be a problem.
Published 23 Dec 2020, 12:05 IST