What a game.
Led by Anthony Davis, who scored a game-high 34 points, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the LA Clippers to close the first night of action in the NBA bubble. LeBron James finished with a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double, while Paul George scored a team-high 30 points for the Clippers.
For more on the game, here are some quick observations...
1. Having Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell would be nice
Williams is still in quarantine and Harrell continues to be away from the team to tend to an excused family emergency. Without them, the Clippers were down their third and fourth leading scorers against the Lakers.
It didn't take long for the Clippers to feel their absence, as Kawhi Leonard was forced to the bench at the 7:08 mark in the first quarter for picking up two offensive fouls, leaving Paul George as their only real shot creator. It led to quite a lot of Reggie Jackson, probably more than the Clippers signed up for when they acquired him before the season was suspended.
2. The Clippers still don't have a clear matchup for Anthony Davis
Davis wasted no time taking it to the Clippers in this one.
He got off to an aggressive start with 14 points in the first quarter. He shot only 3-for-8 from the field, but Davis went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line to open the game, leading to some early foul trouble for Ivica Zubac and Joakim Noah, LA's starting centre and backup with Harrell still out.
Right where he left off. pic.twitter.com/AZPAtcI00g- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 31, 2020
It was more of the same in the second quarter. Davis finished the first half with 20 points on 4-for-10 shooting from the field and 12-for-13 from the free throw line. According to ESPN, it's the 19th time that he's scored 20 or more points in a half this season, tying him with Luka Doncic for fifth-most in the league.
Everyone else on the Lakers combined for 34 points on 12-for-32 shooting from the field and 7-for-12 from the free throw line in the first half. (More on those shooting woes in a bit).
3. The sideline cam was made for LeBron James
Case in point...
Bron's slam via sideline cam 🔥 pic.twitter.com/n3LXerScAY- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) July 31, 2020
4. LeBron James can still stop anyone
James hasn't exactly had the reputation of always being locked in defensively over the last few seasons.
This season has been a different story.
For whatever reason, be it the addition of a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Davis or a legitimate opportunity to win another championship or something else, James has been a far more engaged defender this season, to the point where he is a sneaky candidate to make an All-Defense Team for the first time since 2014. (Do I think he will? No. Does he deserve mention for how well he's played defensively this season? I think so, yes).
Anyway, there was one particular possession in the first half where James shadowed Leonard and forced him into a tough pull-up with the shot clock winding down that was quite impressive.
Bron put the clamps on Kawhi 🔒 pic.twitter.com/ePCVV3xVIk- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 31, 2020
Need you be reminded, Leonard is one of the best 1-on-1 scorers in the NBA. According to NBA.com, only six players are averaging more isolation points per game than him this season. Leonard is scoring at a rate of 1.07 points per possession on those plays, ranking him in the 85th percentile in efficiency. He usually makes defenders look helpless in those situations.
5. Making shots helps
So, uhh, this happened:
Lakers have missed 23 of their 29 shots since the start of the second quarter -- 19 total points in 15 minutes. Offense operating slow. Not a ton of creativity, mostly just methodical action through Anthony Davis against a set defense. Spread shooters also bricking: 3/17 from 3.- Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) July 31, 2020
Yeah, not good.
Luckily for the Lakers, the Clippers couldn't buy a bucket with Leonard and George off the court at the end of the third quarter. It paved the way for Davis to hit back-to-back 3s en route to eight straight points to keep the game close heading into the fourth quarter.
AD sinking back to back threes 🎯- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 31, 2020
30 piece for The Brow. pic.twitter.com/CxM3AIYfOx
Then the Lakers started making shots again. They knocked down five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter compared to six through the first three quarters. That helped them regain the lead and carried them to victory.
Again, making shots helps.
Davis will get a lot of the attention and deservedly so, but Kyle Kuzma gave the Lakers a nice boost off the bench with 16 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the perimeter. The Lakers are a different team when he plays well.
6. Paul George looks like he's back
Not that you ever want to overreact to games that don't count towards wins and losses, but George looked more like himself in LA's three scrimmages. He then looked like the best player on the floor for a decent portion of this contest.
George finished the game with 30 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals on 11-for-17 shooting from the field and 6-for-11 from the 3-point line. He was aggressive looking for his own shot, played under control for the most part and came up big when the Clippers needed him to.
If that's the Paul George the Clippers are going to get in the bubble, they should be in good shape moving forward.
7. This was a wild finish
First there was this:
Clutch defense by Caruso 🔒- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) July 31, 2020
Get to TNT NOW for the end of Lakers/Clippers pic.twitter.com/1MOvMX1RC4
Then there was this:
PAUL. GEORGE. CLUTCH. pic.twitter.com/WWimU7STmG- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 31, 2020
Followed by this to win the game:
FINAL: Lakers 103, Clippers 101. Anthony Davis with a game-high 34 points and 8 rebounds. LeBron James with 16 points, 11 rebounds and the game-winner. pic.twitter.com/sbX5txOYty- Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 31, 2020
Which leads me to...
8. I hope these teams meet in the playoffs
I don't want this to be the last time we see the Lakers and Clippers go up against each other this season. These matchups have been too much fun.
Time will tell, I suppose.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.