LAC vs LAL Opening Night: Clippers Conspectus
Photo courtesy of Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
After winning the battle against the Lakers for Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, the Clippers went head to head with them again, but this time on the court for the opening night of the 2019-20 NBA Season. Many feel that this is the matchup we’ll see in the Western Conference finals. Last night actually felt like a playoff game with the electrifying atmosphere, showcasing a great advert for the season ahead. After a hard fought game, the Clippers came away victorious, beating the Lakers 112-102 and staked their claim for the city of Los Angeles. They were able to demonstrate the same ethos that gave them success last season.
Kawhi Leonard picked up where he left off, leading the Clippers with 30 points on 52.4% shooting, collecting six rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block. Kawhi got off to a slow start but it didn’t take him long to showcase his skillset, utilizing his mid range shot to impact the game. It’s fair to say that he definitely looked like an NBA Finals MVP. There was one moment that stood out for Leonard and that was his left handed slam.
It wasn’t only Leonard who had a big night, fan favourites Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams seamlessly transitioned their form from last season into the game. Harrell’s energy was key to the Clippers victory. He was able to exploit the Lakers defense with his pick and roll, racking up 17 points on 63.6% shooting, along with seven rebounds. Harrell spaced the floor really well and was able to feed his teammates with good looks, finishing with four assists. Sweet Lou Williams came off the bench and went right at his opposition, attacking the basket and shooting off the dribble to accumulate 21 points for the night on 57.1% shooting. He did a good job gathering boards and distributing to his colleagues, finishing with five rebounds and seven assists. Lou’s defence usually comes under scrutiny, but he dug in and was able to contribute on both ends.
Landry Shamet had a relatively quiet night offensively with only eight points on 37.5% shooting, although continuing his impressive record from three with 50% beyond the arc. Shamet did impact the game in other areas, especially with his movement, finishing with three rebounds and two assists.
If Doc was unsure who should be playing at the four, well JaMychal Green and Maurice Harkless have resolved this conundrum for him. Both of them had great games, demonstrating their voraciousness on the defensive end and picked up double digits in scoring. Harkless was the surprise performer, squeezing every ounce of energy out of the Lakers with his defence. Harkless finished with 10 points, four rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Green continued with his 3-point prowess, sinking four out of seven attempts, finishing the game with 12 points and six rebounds.
The Clippers put the whole league on notice, legitimizing their ‘favourites’ status. The team didn’t perform to their full potential and it’s clear they still have a few things to work on, but this is a good platform to start from. This is all whilst waiting for MVP candidate Paul George to return from injury. How scary is that?