The Los Angeles Clippers spoiled the Los Angeles Lakers reigning Champion season opener with a 116-109 victory. The Clippers hung their hats on defense and overcame 29 personal fouls to secure the win.
Clippers forward Paul George mentioned how the officials “did good for game one.”
“A lot of ticky-tack fouls on our behalf,” George said. “We just kept playing … They did a good job for game one.”
George led all scorers with 33 points, Five different Clippers players tied at six rebounds. Lakers forward LeBron James scored 22 points with guard Dennis Schröder getting 12 boards. Schröder was two assists away from scoring a triple-double.
“I just tried to click right in it, try to get my teammates involved,” Schröder said. “We’re just trying to get on the same page.”
Prior to the game, the Los Angeles Lakers were presented their 2020 NBA Championship rings. Essential workers from UCLA Health presented the coaching staff with rings, while loved ones presented the rings to the players.
“It’s a weird day, celebrating that historic moment with our franchise and historic run, what we did last year and then happen to do it without our family and friends and our fans,” James said. “And then having to get straight to a competition of basketball, just a weird day to say the least.”
The Lakers had a slow start, struggling to find their shot and sending Clippers players to the free throw line. Forwards Serge Ibaka and Kawhi Leonard led scoring for the Clippers in the early minutes. The Lakers turned the ball over and missed open shots. The Clippers ended the first quarter with a 20-point lead.
“They came out really hot; we had some good looks, weren’t going down,” said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. “We turned the ball over a few times during that stretch, but obviously, they just jumped on us early.”
When the Clippers reached 41 points, their offense froze for over five regulated minutes. In that time the Lakers scored six points. Leonard broke their draught with a three-point play. Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker, James and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished at the free throw line, helping the Lakers cut down their deficit to six.
The Lakers went into the third quarter with a two-point deficit. Ibaka, George, and Leonard created a six-point run. Leonard led all scorers at 20 points at this point. As the Lakers kept the game close, the Clippers refused them the lead.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley and Lakers center Marc Gasol got into foul trouble and were benched as the third quarter continued. George went on a 10-2 run to give the Clippers an 11-point advantage going into the final phase.
“We was able to draw up some plays up to get [George] in the [isolation] situation and get some matchup and postup on the elbow, catch and shoot,” said Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue. “[George] just had an overall phenomenal, great game, went 13-for-18 on the field and got more aggressive in the second half.”
By sharing the ball, the Lakers sliced their deficit down to six points. But the Clippers kept their momentum with George looking to execute a win. He scored 11 more points, ensuring the Clippers dominance in the match up.
Both the Lakers and Clippers will be competing on Christmas with the Clippers traveling to battle the Denver Nuggets at 7:30pm. The Lakers will host the Dallas Mavericks at 5:00P.M.