DimeMag

The Lakers And Clippers Were Who We Thought They Were In The Opener (And It Was Fun)

While the Pelicans and Raptors provided a nice opener in the form of an overtime thriller, the marquee game on the first night of the 2019-20 NBA season was the Battle for L.A. between the Lakers and Clippers.

The two Los Angeles clubs are also the two title favorites at most sportsbooks, and as such, their new-look rosters have been broken down at length, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of both including how they would matchup with each other. While it must be noted both teams were down a key player, with Paul George and Kyle Kuzma each sidelined with injury, the game played out pretty much according to the script on Tuesday night.

First off, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis are all spectacular and each showed their incredible individual talents in the Clippers’ 112-102 win. Leonard scored 30 points, hauled in six boards, and dished out five dimes in his Clippers debut, taking quick control of the offense and simply being too good for anyone the Lakers threw at him.

For the Lakers, Davis had 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, while LeBron is, well, LeBron as he had 18 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

As for the teams as a whole, the prevailing thoughts on both played out as anticipated. The Lakers’ length bothered the Clippers, particularly early in the first quarter. The biggest question for the Clippers in a matchup with the Lakers — or an Eastern Conference contender like the Sixers — is how they’ll handle a team with significantly more size and length and that remains after opening night. For example, Davis unsurprisingly feasted on Patrick Patterson to open the contest.

Davis and LeBron are, as expected, extremely good together, and maybe most impressive was the performance of Davis and the rest of the Lakers when LeBron was off the court. LeBron’s teams have historically tried to hold on when he goes to the bench, but as evidenced by a run to close the third quarter, the Davis-led group is more than capable of running excellent offense without the King, assisted tremendously by the presence of Danny Green who caught fire in the third.

The rest of the Lakers, however, are a question mark and it was there that the Clippers held a big advantage. Lou Williams outscored the entire Lakers bench by his lonesome, 21-19, and the LouWill-Montrezl Harrell connection remains spectacular.

While they’re still clearly learning how to play off of and around Kawhi Leonard, the guys that have been there — Williams, Harrell, and Patrick Beverley — are clearly on a different level of connection compared to the Lakers roster, which showed on Tuesday. The depth of the Clippers paired with Kawhi Leonard is as dangerous as advertised and won out over a Lakers team whose ceiling and floor are, right now, simply further apart.

The Lakers have significant defensive questions surrounding their two stars, particularly on the wing where Kawhi victimized Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. While that comes with the caveat that it is Kawhi, by the playoffs, the Clippers will have Paul George out there as well. Just as the Clippers don’t have much in the way of an answer for Davis down low, the Lakers don’t seem to have an answer for strong offensive wings.

In total, the Battle for L.A. was as advertised. Both teams are going to be very good and figure to only get better as they get key players back in the lineup and steadily figure out how to play together. The sky isn’t falling for the Lakers after one loss, as they showed flashes of brilliance on offense in between some lulls that, at least for now, can be chalked up to a lack of chemistry. The Clippers have established themselves as the team to chase in the West due to their talent and depth, which will only get better, but they still have questions to answer in the frontcourt.

The excitement for both teams is well warranted and if Tuesday night is any indication, the 2019-20 NBA season will be as thrilling as we’d hoped after a crazy summer shook up the league.

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