The NBA Finals might have been won by the Toronto Raptors over the Golden State Warriors, but the real rematch is here: Kawhi Leonard vs. Steph Curry. Just like the Finals, Curry is without Klay Thompson, and Kevim Durant has left town. So the two stars that last clashed in June were set to take the NBA spotlight with their first meeting of the new season on Thursday night.

The Warriors opened a new arena, the Chase Center. It was the Warriors first home game in San Francisco since 1971.

Los Angeles wasted no time attacking the basket and taking the lead: they jumped out to an 14-0 lead to start the game.

To make matters worse for the Warriors, Draymond Green left the court three minutes into the game with an undisclosed injury.

Just as things were looking bleak, D’Angelo Russell woke up the Warriors in his team debut. He scored Golden State’s first 10 points, with the last 6 coming on back-to-back three pointers. Have the Warriors found the next Splash Brother?

By the end of the first quarter, Golden State battled back to cut the Clippers lead to 6 as the score was 35-29. Russell and Curry carried the offense with 10 points each, as big men Ivica Zubac and Patrick Patterson had 8 points apiece for Los Angeles.

The Warriors shooting struggles continued into the second quarter, but they played with better energy defensively and on the boards. By halftime, Golden State’s field goal percentage was down to 39% and the Clippers led 65-54.

Curry had 15 points at the break, while Russell only tallied 10 points during his one scoring outburst. No Warriors players had as many points as the 18 that Lou Williams had off the Clippers bench.

Leonard and Patterson had 11 points each at halftime for Los Angeles. For the Warriors, Green would return to the court and tally 4 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists during 14 minutes on the court.

As the third quarter wore on, it became even more apparent the Clippers were just flat-out outplaying the Warriors on their home court. Veteran Dwyane Wade chimed in on Twitter:

The Clippers blew the game open in the third quarter. Golden State called a timeout with 3:55 remaining in the quarter, at which point Los Angeles led 104-73 (a 31-point margin.) The Warriors were being outclassed in every facet of the game, The Clippers latest run came with Leonard on the bench, as Patterson, Harrell, and the bench continued to impose their will up and down the court.

Curry put up a few shots and got some points on the board, but the damage was already done. The Clippers led 111-87 through three quarters as Leonard continued to watch from the sideline.

He wouldn’t return in the fourth quarter. In 21 minutes, Leonard logged 21 points, 5 rebounds, and a career-high 9 assists.

The Clippers won by a final score of 141-122.

Patterson had 20, Lou Williams had 22 off the bench, Harrell added 18 off the bench, and the Clippers shot 63% to get to 2-0.

Russell stayed quiet after his 10-point outburst, finishing with 16 in his Warriors debut. Curry poured in 23 points on 8-20 FG in the season opener.

The past decade of the NBA has been dominated by two forces: LeBron James, and the Golden State Warriors. Eight straight Finals appearances and five straight (and still active) for the Warriors makes the Lakers and Warriors the teams to beat in the Western Conference.

And the Clippers just beat both of them.

For now, there’s no question that the Clippers are the team to beat in the West, and in all of the NBA. The Toronto Raptors may be defending champions, but Kawhi Leonard has essentially brought the crown with him to LA.

There’s still a long season left to play, but for now, all eyes are on the Clippers are title favorites. And this is all with Paul George still set to make his team debut in the next 8-12 games.

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Header photo credit: Acquired via YouTube

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