In the First Battle for Los Angeles, Round One Goes to the Clippers

The start of the NBA Season. One of my favorite times of the year. The transition offense, slam dunks, and clutch threes are a few of my favorite things about the game of basketball. The only thing left that I need to do to get ready for basketball season is pick up my copy of NBA 2K20 at Target.

This past offseason was a crazy one, with a seemingly record-breaking amount of players switching teams. Two of the most notable moves in the offseason occurred for two teams in the same city: Anthony Davis went to the Lakers, while Kawhi Leonard and Paul George went to the Clippers. AD was expected to move, as he told the media that he wanted to be traded last year. I did not expect Paul George to get picked up by the Clippers. There was speculation that a Kawhi move was coming, but after wining a championship with the Raptors, I thought he was going to stay in Toronto.

Instead, Los Angeles became the City of Kings. The Clippers got the two stars they long deserved. They traded (last season) for former Lakers center Ivica Zubac. The Lakers added Davis and plenty of veterans, including Danny Green (Raptors), Avery Bradley (Clippers and Grizzlies), Troy Daniels (Suns), Jared Dudley (Nets), and Dwight Howard, who should compete with starting center JaVale McGee for minutes.

To set the stage for what will be one of the most exciting and unique seasons in NBA history, the league scheduled Lakers-Clippers for an opening night content. 10:30 P.M. Staples Center. Los Angeles, CA.

What a game it was. Before the season started, LeBron James said he wanted to run the offense through AD. Last night, that was a smart decision, as AD was second on the Lakers in scoring (25 points). In addition, AD grabbed 10 boards, recording a double-double in his first game with the Purple and Gold. LeBron has always been the center piece of a team, but the addition of AD takes a lot of pressure off of LeBron. Regardless, The King filled up the stat sheet himself in his 2019-2020 season debut, recording 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists, falling just shy of a triple-double.

Yes, the Lakers were impressive last night, but the Clippers were much more impressive. Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 30 points, and was actually the only Clippers starter to score in double figures. So how did the Clippers win then?

Their bench. JaMychal Green, Montrezl Harrell, Mo Harkless, and Lou Williams (who needs to be a starter) combined for 60 points, 22 rebounds, and 11 assists. I went to bed after the third quarter, in which the Clippers had allowed the Lakers to storm back late, but woke up and watched the fourth quarter this morning. The biggest asset off the Clippers bench I saw was Harrell, the former Louisville product who was a bully down low: fighting for every rebound, fighting through a tough Lakers defense to get tough layups, and harassing the Lakers on the defensive end. If the Clippers can get bench contributions all season long, they are my pick to win the West.

The Lakers bench in comparison? Not nearly as good: 19 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the only bench player who saw more than 20 minutes, was held scoreless while picking up three rebounds and three assists. If the Lakers want to be that dominant team that their roster shows they can be, they will need their bench to step up big time.

The Clippers’ defense was smothering in the fourth quarter. After allowing the Lakers to go on a 15-3 run to close out the third quarter, the Clippers only allowed the Lakers to score 17 points in the fourth quarter, including an 0-5 start from the field. The Clippers rode their hot late fourth quarter shooting and their stifling defense to a 112-102 win, and they won Round One in the Battle for Los Angeles.

The Lake Show. The Clippers. Two of the league’s premier teams. If you want to watch Round Two, tune in to ABC or ESPN at 8:00 P.M. on Christmas Day.

The NBA is back!

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