‘Little brother’ Clippers defeat Lakers in battle of Los Angeles
Reinforced Clippers overcome LeBron's Lakers in high-profile opener
Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers won the first round of Los Angeles' battle for basketball supremacy yesterday morning (Singapore time), defeating LeBron James and the Lakers 112-102 in a pulsating NBA season-opening clash at the Staples Center.
Leonard, who arrived at the Clippers in the off-season after leading the Toronto Raptors to the NBA title last season, wasted no time roaring back into action, leading the scoring with 30 points.
"It was great. A lot of emotions, game one," said Leonard, who grew up in Riverside, 80km east of Los Angeles.
"I am just happy we came out and got a victory. We had great practices and some carry over from that tonight."
The Clippers attacked the rim, forced easy turnovers, used a stingy defence to keep James and his new sidekick Anthony Davis in check.
Leonard also had six rebounds and five assists, reserve guard Lou Williams finished with 21 points and power forward Montrezl Harrell tallied 17 points and seven rebounds.
James shot seven-of-19 for 18 points and Davis shot eight-of-21 for 25 points for the Lakers, who are hoping their off-season changes will boost the team's fortunes after they finished a disappointing 37-45 and failed to qualify for the post-season for the sixth season in a row.
"It is the first game," said James.
"It was a huge test. We have a lot of room to improve. We are a new group with a new system. We did some good things and we did some not-so-good things.
"We look forward to getting some film and seeing some of the mistakes we made."
The one bright spot for the Lakers was newcomer Danny Green, who scored 28 points by hitting 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts, including seven of nine from beyond the arc.
Davis said he and James will need time to get used to each other on the court.
"We are both aggressive, so sometimes we miss each other. We are still learning and just trying to figure it out. This is game one of many," Davis said.
A 19-7 run to begin the fourth quarter helped the Clippers seal the win and hold off the Lakers the rest of the way.
The two Los Angeles teams made some of the most significant changes in the off-season, but the Clippers appeared to have added more value.
Every one of their bench players reached double figures yesterday as they outscored the Lakers reserves 60-19. Williams outscored the Lakers reserves by himself.
He said the Clippers didn't want to just win, and that they are tired of playing second fiddle to the Lakers and wanted nothing more than to dominate their city rivals.
"We always play with a chip on our shoulder," Williams said.
"For last two months, all the talk has been about the Lakers versus the Clippers.
"We hear that we are the Junior Varsity team, or little brother, or whatever. We are pros too. That's why we have a chip on our shoulder."
The Lakers roared to a 13-2 lead after a basket by Davis less than four minutes into the contest. However, the Clippers stormed back, cutting the deficit to 25-22 at the end of the quarter.
Clippers outscored the Lakers 40-29 in the second quarter and led 62-54 at half-time.
Thanks to the addition of Leonard from Toronto and Paul George from Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers are one of the early front-runners to contend for a title.
"We would love to win a championship and we are going to compete at high level and give ourselves an opportunity," said Williams. - AFP
YESTERDAY'S OTHER RESULT:
Toronto Raptors 130 New Orleans Pelicans 122(OT)