Clippers beat Lakers in megastar-studded opener determined through bench

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Injured Clippers star Paul George arrived at Staples Center on Tuesday wearing a tuxedo jacket and bow tie.

On a night where the NBA’s season-opening matchup carried the trappings of a Hollywood spectacle, the black-tie outfit felt appropriate.

About Clippers
A clipper is a 19th-century fast sailing ship with three masts and a square rig.
Clipper or clippers may also refer to:

Clippers beat Lakers in star-studded opener decided by bench

About Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are an American professional basketball team based in Los Angeles. The Lakers compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA), as a member of the league’s Western Conference in the Pacific Division. The Lakers play their home games at Staples Center, an arena shared with the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Sparks of the Women’s National Basketball Association, and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League. The Lakers are one of the most successful teams in the history of the NBA, and have won 16 NBA championships, the second-most behind the Boston Celtics.
The franchise began with the 1947 purchase of a disbanded team, the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League (NBL). The new team began playing in Minneapolis, calling themselves the Minneapolis Lakers. Initially a member of the NBL, the Lakers won the 1948 NBL championship before joining the rival Basketball Association of America, where they would win five of the next six championships, led by star George Mikan. After struggling financially in the late 1950s following Mikan’s retirement, they relocated to Los Angeles before the 1960–61 season.
Led by Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, Los Angeles made the NBA Finals six times in the 1960s, but lost each series to the Celtics, beginning their long and storied rivalry. In 1968, the Lakers acquired four-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Wilt Chamberlain, and won their sixth NBA title—and first in Los Angeles—in 1972, led by new head coach Bill Sharman. After the retirement of West and Chamberlain, the team acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who also won multiple MVP awards, but was unable to make the Finals in the late 1970s.
The 1980s Lakers were nicknamed “Showtime” due to their fast break-offense led by Magic Johnson. The team won five championships in a nine-year span, and contained Hall of Famers Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy, and was led by Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley. After Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson retired, the team struggled in the early 1990s, before acquiring Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in 1996. With the duo, who were led by another Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, the team won three consecutive titles between 2000 to 2002, securing the franchise its second “three-peat”. The Lakers won two more championships in 2009 and 2010, but failed to regain their former glory in the following decade.
The Lakers hold the record for NBA’s longest winning streak, 33 straight games, set during the 1971–72 season. Twenty-six Hall of Famers have played for Los Angeles, while four have coached the team. Four Lakers—Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, O’Neal, and Bryant—have won the NBA MVP Award for a total of eight awards.

As celebrities and Gov. Gavin Newsom watched, the matchup of NBA A-list stars that had been anticipated since the game’s August announcement lived up to its promise in the Clippers’ 112-102 victory over the Lakers.

“The moment they made the schedule,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “it was almost positioned like a prize fight in a lot of ways.”

Clippers beat Lakers in star-studded opener decided by bench

A sold-out crowd of split allegiances alternately booed and celebrated Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Anthony Davis — and then the game started, and the volume increased yet again.

After missing his first two shots and turning the ball over twice — a start that mirrored his team’s disastrous first four minutes offensively — Leonard made seven consecutive field goals and assisted on two others to turn an 11-point Clippers deficit into a second-quarter lead. He finished with 30 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Nearly four months after Davis, James and the Lakers chased Leonard in free agency only to come up empty-handed, they spent the second quarter chasing him with similar results. Leonard scored 16 points in the quarter as the Clippers ran up 40 to grab an eight-point advantage at the break.

“He created the run for us,” Rivers said. “Everyone else joined in and that’s what he does, he talks with his game.”

Just as Leonard, the reigning Finals most valuable player, appeared unguardable for stretches, so too did the Lakers’ all-NBA duo of James and Davis in moments that led Clippers fans to boo and Lakers fans to chant “M-V-P!”

James finished with 18 points, two of which came on a transition dunk in the third quarter that he followed by staring down Clippers guard Lou Williams. James, who also had nine rebounds and 10 assists, later chased down Clippers guard Landry Shamet on a fastbreak to erase his attempted layup before it touched the rim.

The Lakers fed Davis a steady diet of passes into the post, where he sized up the Clippers’ front line with back-downs and floaters en route to 25 points and 10 rebounds. When they found their lanes to the basket blocked by the length of the Clippers’ long-armed defenders, they found Danny Green for 18 third-quarter points, an outburst that fueled a 15-0 Lakers run that leveled the score at 85-all entering the fourth quarter.

“We regrouped, stayed poised,” Clippers guard Patrick Beverley said. “That’s one thing Kawhi kept saying — stay poised, stay poised.”

For all of the control James, Leonard and Davis held over the game to that point, it was a pair of nonstars who decided one of the game’s most pivotal moments.

With the Clippers leading 107-99 with 3:10 to play in the fourth quarter, Beverley — the Clippers guard whose pro career began in Ukraine, Greece and Russia — grabbed an offensive rebound over James and passed to Williams, whose assist found forward Montrezl Harrell for a layup and foul.

The sequence gave the Clippers’ bench — which led the NBA in scoring last season — 60 points. All four Clippers reserves who played scored at least 10. Lakers reserves managed only 19 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope going scoreless in 27 minutes and Dwight Howard scoring only three points in 19 minutes.

After the final buzzer, Harrell approached a section of fans and egged on both cheers and jeers, grinning as his mouthguard stuck out.

“They hit us with a punch to start and we just kept moving forward,” Rivers said. “It was like OK, we took it and kept playing. I thought our ball pressure changed the game for us.”

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s sound and fury, the Lakers and Clippers both said the season’s first game would signify “nothing,” as Rivers reiterated before tipoff.

And yet, the charged atmosphere in the building certainly underscored something — the prediction that the Western Conference could eventually run through Los Angeles and the competitiveness that could define every matchup between these teams from now on.