The Los Angeles Lakers were, predictably, slow out of the gate on Tuesday night.
Though the defending champions eventually played their way back into the contest at the Staples Center, it was too late.
The Clippers, who sprinted out to a 22-point lead, beat the Lakers 116-109 to officially kick off the 2020-21 season behind a stellar night from Paul George.
“I had a heck of an offseason coming into this year where I was able to train and get back on the floor and play basketball coming into the season,” George said on TNT after putting up 33 points on 18 shots. “I’m just in a good headspace. I’m in a good physical space, and I put a lot of work coming into this year.”
“I’m just in a good headspace and a good physical space.”
PG on being able to build on the momentum from Opening Night. pic.twitter.com/23C0tM509f
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 23, 2020
Clippers take advantage early
The Lakers may have simply had other things on their minds when the game got started at the Staples Center on Tuesday night.
The organization officially unveiled their NBA championship rings — which included a special Kobe Bryant tribute — from last year’s title run at Walt Disney World during pregame, and had players’ families help out with a special video presentation.
And to add to it, they were coming off the shortest offseason in NBA history. They beat the Heat to close out the series inside the bubble on Oct. 11.
So when the game finally got going, the Clippers seemed just a step ahead. They broke out with a 15-2 run and then another 13-3 run to secure a 20-point lead after the first 12 minutes, which they pushed to 22 early in the second quarter.
“They just jumped on us early,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said, via The Athletic’s Jovan Buha.
The Lakers rallied to cut it to just a two-point game by halftime, however, while holding the Clippers to just five points in the final 3:43 of the quarter.
Paul George surges to close 3rd quarter
It wasn’t until the final few minutes of the third quarter that George took over.
The Clippers star went on a solo 10-2 run to close out the period, which put them back up by double digits. 15 of his 33 points of the night came in the third quarter, too.
George’s surge continued into the fourth, as he opened the quarter with a bucket and then drilled a clutch step-back 3-pointer just minutes later to fend off a brief Lakers push.
By then, the Lakers were simply down and out as the Clippers held on to take the seven-point win.
“It feels great,” new Clippers coach Ty Lue said of his first win, via Forbes’ Shane Young. “Anytime you win it feels great. To come out, game one, first time coaching this team and going against a great team like the Lakers.”
George added six rebounds and three assists in the win while shooting 5 of 8 from behind the arc. Kawhi Leonard finished with 26 points, and Serge Ibaka put up 15 points and six rebounds in his first outing with the team.
LeBron James led the Lakers with 22 points while shooting 7 of 17 from the field in his 28 minutes on Tuesday night, and Anthony Davis finished with 18. Dennis Schroder nearly put up a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
Though it is just their first game, the Clippers look more than ready to avenge last season’s disappointing postseason exit — something they can undoubtedly accomplish with George playing like he did on Tuesday night.
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