After the Los Angeles Lakers earned their championship rings, the Los Angeles Clippers gave a performance that showed this renewed team is determined to compete for its own jewels several months from now.
Paul George scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half, Kawhi Leonard added 26 points and the Los Angeles Clippers edged the Los Angeles Lakers on the night of the NBA champions’ ring ceremony for a 116-109 victory on Tuesday.
George was 13 of 18 with five 3s in an outstanding first game since agreeing to add four years and $ 190 million to his contract with the Clippers, who never lost in the last meeting of the two NBA powerhouses of Southern California. The Clippers beat the Lakers in the season opener for the second year in a row and won the debut of coach Tyronn Lue.
The Clippers stayed in their locker room while the Lakers received their rings, but they emerged with purpose and determined play, from their two superstars in particular.
“Our focus was on us,” Lue said. “The Lakers deserved that ring. They had a great year and nothing can be taken away from them. Our focus wasn’t really on the Lakers. They were the best team last year, so congratulations again, but now we move on. “
LeBron James scored 22 points and Anthony Davis 18 for the Lakers just 72 days after they wiped out the Miami Heat in the NBA bubble. James said he sprained his ankle “pretty good” in the second half, leading him to play just 28 minutes.
“I’m happy today is over and we can focus on the season, but it’s a lot to process,” James said. “It felt weird to have a basketball game today.”
The Lakers came back from the shortest offseason in league history and celebrated the 17th franchise title, but couldn’t keep up with George and Leonard down the stretch. Lakers coach Frank Vogel also limited James’ playing time and held Davis to 31 minutes, anticipating the long grind ahead of his veterans after a 10-week offseason.
“It’s not ideal, but I feel like you need to manage those guys’ minutes in the right way,” Vogel said. “Getting through this healthy stretch is a priority, and assessing how our new guys fit in is a priority when we haven’t had a normal amount of time to do that. The five guys on the court have to be better than they were tonight. “
Serge Ibaka scored 15 points in his debut for the Clippers, who have not played since ruining a 3-1 playoff series lead against Denver and ruining a long-awaited final conference showdown with the Lakers waiting in the bubble. The collapse led to the departure of coach Doc Rivers, and Lue took the bench to take over a star-studded team with several new additions.
The Lakers trailed by 22 points under the ring hangover in the first quarter, but erased all but two points of the deficit in the second. The Clippers pulled away late in the third with George burning a series of defenders one-on-one. He scored 11 more points in the quarter to seal it.
“We are not thinking about last year,” Leonard said. “It is a different team. I am happy that we continue to play basketball in the right way. Even if we lost the advantage, we turned around and kept playing our basketball. We executed our offense, and that is what we are proud of tonight. They all supported each other and stayed positive. “
Brooklyn Nets 125, Golden State Warriors 99
Kevin Durant shook off 18 months of rust and finished with 22 points in 25 minutes, Kyrie Irving was even better and Brooklyn kicked off the Steve Nash era with a victory over Golden State in the NBA season opener.
Durant was competing in his first official game since breaking his Achilles tendon while playing for Golden State in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals.
Irving led Brooklyn with 26 points and Caris LeVert scored 20 as the Nets led to 38 points.
Stephen Curry had 20 points and 10 assists for the Warriors.
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