Staples Center was buzzing as the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers squared off on opening night of the 2019-2020 NBA season. Both LA teams have been dubbed the two favorites to win it all this year making this a tantalizing crosstown showdown. The Clippers did not disappoint.
Even without Paul George, who is still healing from offseason shoulder surgery, the Clippers handled the Lakers 112-102, despite falling behind in the first quarter. Kawhi Leonard came alive in the second quarter effortlessly hitting shots regardless of who was guarding him. His baseline fadeaway looked unstoppable all night. He would finish with 30 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds. He looked like the same Kawhi who dominated the playoffs last season and meshed perfectly with the Clippers offense. If he plays enough games this year, and the Clippers are the top team in the West, a Kawhi MVP campaign could be on the table.
The Clippers defense was on full display after being touted all offseason as an elite defensive unit. Patrick Beverley hounded Lakers players all night, and showcased his signature hustle when he beat out LeBron James for a huge offensive rebound near the end of the game as the Lakers attempted to come back. Kawhi showcased his defensive prowess several times, most notably on a block from behind on a dunking Dwight Howard. Montrezl Harrell played superb defense throughout the contest as well, drawing charges and helping on switches in the paint.
The big story of the night was the Clippers’ bench, which outscored the Lakers’ bench 60-19. Lou Williams played flawlessly knocking down big shots, controlling the pace of the game and finding open teammates. Montrezl Harrell had a great game as well, playing with his signature energy and tenacity. The duos’ chemistry was on full display as Lou Will found Harrell rolling to the hoop on multiple occasions. Lou Will finished with 21 points and 7 assists while Harrell finished with 17 to go along with 7 boards. Newcomers Jamychal Green and Mo Harkless provided a great spark off the bench as well, knocking down open threes and playing tough D throughout the game. The Clippers bench swung the game and showed how deep the Clippers are top to bottom. It also highlighted the lack of depth the Lakers have, a problem they will need to address.
The biggest take away from the opening night game is that this Clippers team is for real. To think they handled the Lakers this well without Paul George is a scary thought for the rest of the league. The Clippers did not look like a new team, as their offense flowed the entire game with great passing and spacing. Sharp shooters like Landry Shamet were graced with wide open threes as the Clippers effortlessly found the open man throughout the game on drive and kicks as well as perimeter swings.
All in all, it was a successful night for the Clippers as they won despite being the underdog. This was the Lakers’ game to win, especially with Paul George sidelined, but the Clippers never looked back after taking the lead in the second quarter. The rest of the league is on notice – the Clippers mean business this season.
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