What a game to open the season!
Opening night was supposed to be about the Los Angeles Lakers as they received their championship rings, but the LA Clippers had other ideas as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard led the charge to secure a 116-109 win at STAPLES Center.
The Clippers started the game with a bang, leading by as many as 22 points in the first quarter, before the Lakers rallied to tie things up midway through the third, but George's hot hand proved too much as they got their campaign off to a winning start.
Here are some thoughts from the second game of the 2020-21 NBA season:
1. Paul George balls out
After scoring seven points in the first half, Paul George caught fire over the final 24 minutes, scoring 26 of his game-high 33 points in the second half.
George shot an efficient 13-of-18 from the field and 5-of-8 from the 3-point line, adding six rebounds, and three assists, while Kawhi Leonard added 26 points. and Serge Ibaka 15 in the win.
After the Lakers erased the deficit midway through the third, George reeled off 10-straight points to restore their lead, giving them an 89-78 advantage heading into the fourth and they never looked back.
Paul George heats up for 15 PTS on 6-6 shooting in the 3rd quarter! #KiaTipOff20 @LAClippers 89@Lakers 78- NBA (@NBA) December 23, 2020
4th quarter NEXT on TNT pic.twitter.com/GcM8ATXk0o
Through the off-season, George said he was committed to getting back to his MVP-level in Oklahoma City and after one game he looks like he's kept his word, showing a renewed confidence as he knocked down tough shot after tough shot regardless of who was in front of him.
"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 post-game. "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."
If this is the Paul George we see all season, the Clippers are going to be a tough matchup every night.
2. Slow start for LeBron and AD
Coming off the shortest off-season in NBA history, the Lakers were naturally cautious with their two stars as LeBron James played just 28 minutes and Anthony Davis 31 on opening night.
LeBron finished with 22 points, five rebounds, and five assists, while Davis chipped in 18 points and seven rebounds.
While they didn't get the win, there was no shortage of highlights from the King, who in is 18th season at 35 years-old, is still taking flight!
🤯 LeBron ABOVE THE RIM in Year 18! Where else? #OnlyHere #KiaTipOff20 on TNT pic.twitter.com/ntogE7MFfx- NBA (@NBA) December 23, 2020
3. Mixed results for Lakers' new additions
The Lakers finished with five players scoring in double figures, with new additions Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell looking right at home in their regular season debuts.
Schroder fell two dimes shy of his first career triple double, recording 14 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists, while Harrell was his usual energetic self off the bench adding 17 points and 10 rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting.
Dennis Schroder (14 PTS, 12 REB, 8 AST) & Montrezl Harrell (17 PTS, 10 REB) impress in their @Lakers debuts. #KiaTipOff20- NBA (@NBA) December 23, 2020
Christmas Day 12/25: Mavericks/Lakers at 8:00pm/et on ABC & ESPN pic.twitter.com/hoJE2vtSwJ
Marc Gasol, who started at center, struggled on opening night, finishing with zero points and five fouls in 12 minutes on court, while Wesley Matthews was also held scoreless in his 11 minutes.
After a slow start, Kyle Kuzma - fresh off inking a three-year, $40 million extension - chipped in 15 points.
4. "I got a really big team and they need some really big rings"
Ahead of tip-off, the defending champion Lakers received their 2020 championship rings in a unique ceremony.
With no fans in attendance, the Lakers were presented their rings virtually from frontline workers and medical professionals from the Los Angeles area, plus special virtual messages from their families.
Designed by Jason of Beverly Hills, the ring has more carats of diamonds than any other ring in NBA history, consisting of 804 stones and 15.50 carats of white and yellow diamonds.
Check 'em out:
This is what it's all about 💍 pic.twitter.com/kZlYMYb93X- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 23, 2020
5. What's next?
Both of these teams are back in action on Christmas Day.
The Lakers will host the up-and-coming Dallas Mavericks in a must-see TV matchup between Luka Doncic and LeBron James, while the Clippers will be out for revenge against the Denver Nuggets after letting a 3-1 lead slip to Jamal Murray and co. in last season's Western Conference semi-finals.
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