On the opening night of the NBA season, we were treated to one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the fresh season. The battle for Los Angeles: LeBron James and his new sidekick Anthony Davis against Kawhi Leonard and a stacked Clippers squad. Unfortunately, Paul George was sidelined for the season opener, and is expected to miss roughly 10 games as he recovers from surgery.

Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers also missed the division rivals’ first meeting of the season.

Despite being a Clippers home game, Leonard got a less than warm welcome in the first quarter of his LA career.

The Lakers jumped out to a 13-2 lead early in the game (which was missed by viewers as the Raptors-Pelicans game poured over into overtime), and from that point on, the Clippers outplayed them for the rest of the first half. The Lakers still attacked and scored, but with a halftime score of 62-54, the Clippers ended the half on a 60-41 run.

For the Lakers, LeBron and Davis carried the bulk of the load as you would expect. Davis tallied 18 points on 5-11 FG and 8-12 FT in the first half, also adding 4 rebounds and 2 assists. James had his fingerprints all over the game with 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, and the Lakers had a +2 margin with LeBron on the court.

Leonard led the Clippers with 20 points (8-11 FG) in the first half, but the real story was the bench production. The Clippers bench outscored the Lakers bench 31-12, led by two-time reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams who had 13 points on 4-5 FG.

Through the third quarter, it looked like the Clippers may have had Game 1 of their season locked up. But the Lakers wouldn’t go away, and stormed back into the game with a 15-0 run. Danny Green and Davis combined for 13 of the points, with the other 2 coming via a Dwight Howard dunk.

The Lakers hot stretch came to a halt in the beginning of the fourth quarter, as they started 0-7 from the field. The Clippers answered the Lakers 15-0 run with a 10-0 run of their own that dated back to the third quarter. LeBron James finally ended the drought with just his second bucket of the second half.

Danny Green did everything he could to keep the Lakers in the game, scoring in the paint, from mid-range, and from his specialty, behind the three-point line.

The Clippers secured two offensive rebounds in the game’s final two minutes, already up ten points, to eat the clock and seal the victory. James and Davis combined for just 2 points in the fourth quarter, with LeBron scoring a single bucket.

If you couldn’t have guessed, the Lakers played better when James and Davis were attacking the basket and scoring in bunches.

The Clippers take Round 1 of the battle for Los Angeles, 112-102. The win sets up the Clippers as the better team: they played better in many areas of the game. The Lakers can definitely compete with them long-term, but the Clippers proved they’re superior at the season’s start.

Again, the bench scoring really decided the outcome of the game. The Clippers bench outscored the Lakers 60-19. It’s a typical problem for James-led teams, and one they’ll need to address moving forward. The absence of Kuzma definitely hurt, but it’s hardly an excuse with the George-less Clippers.

James finished with a routine near-triple double: 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. However, he had 5 turnovers and finished with a -8 point differential while on the court. Davis had a great Lakers debut with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, but Danny Green ended up leading the Lakers offense with 28 points on 10-14 FG, 7-9 3PT.

For the Clippers, Leonard picked up where he left off last season when he won NBA Finals MVP. He totaled a game-high 30 points to go along with 6 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals.

All four bench players for the Clippers hit double-digit points, led by Lou Williams 21 points on 8-14 FG.

The Lakers host the Utah Jazz on Friday. The Clippers have a tough matchup in Golden State on Thursday night. The teams next meeting isn’t until Christmas Day, their next opportunity to see how they measure up against each other.

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Header photo via Yahoo Sports

 

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