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Kawhi's Clippers win battle of LA against LeBron and Lakers, Raptors open defence on a high

The 2019-20 NBA season is officially underway after opening night.

Kawhi Leonard in action against LeBron James.
Kawhi Leonard in action against LeBron James.

KAWHI LEONARD AND the Clippers won the opening round of Los Angeles’s revitalised battle for basketball supremacy, defeating LeBron James and the Lakers 112-102 in a pulsating season-opening clash at the Staples Center.

Leonard, who arrived at the Clippers in the off-season after leading Toronto to the NBA title last season, wasted no time roaring back into action, leading the scoring with 30 points.

“It was great. A lot of emotions, game one,” said Leonard, who grew up in Riverside, 50 miles east of Los Angeles. “I am just happy we came out and got a victory. We had great practices and some carry over from that tonight.”

The Clippers attacked the rim, forced easy turnovers, and used a stingy defence to keep James and his new sidekick Anthony Davis in check.

Leonard also had six rebounds and five assists, reserve guard Lou Williams finished with 21 points and power forward Montrezl Harrell tallied 17 points and seven rebounds.

James shot seven-of-19 for 18 points and Davis shot eight-of-21 for 25 points for the Lakers who are hoping their off-season changes will boost the team’s fortunes after they finished a disappointing 37-45 and failed to qualify for the postseason for the sixth season in a row.

“It is the first game,” said James. “It was a huge test. We have a lot of room to improve. We are a new group with a new system. We did some good things and we did some not so good things. We look forward to getting some film and seeing some of the mistakes we made.”

The one bright spot for the Lakers was newcomer Danny Green who scored 28 points by hitting 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts, including seven of nine from beyond the arc.

Source: NBA/YouTube

Davis said he and James will need time to get used to each other on the court.

“We are both aggressive so sometimes we miss each other,” Davis said. “We are still learning and just trying to figure it out. This is game one of many.”

A 19-7 run to begin the fourth quarter helped the Clippers seal the win and hold off the Lakers the rest of the way.

Earlier, Fred VanVleet scored a career high 34 points as the Raptors got their title defence off on a winning note. Pascal Siakam also tallied 34 points and added 18 rebounds before fouling out of the NBA’s season-opening contest at Scotiabank Arena which featured the Raptors’ championship banner and ring ceremony.

Both teams were missing some big names as the Raptors began life without Leonard and the Pelicans lost Anthony Davis in a trade and were missing injured first pick Zion Williamson. 

Source: NBA/YouTube

Kyle Lowry chipped in 22 points and Serge Ibaka added 13 for Toronto, whose championship pedigree shone through by outscoring the Pelicans 13-5 in overtime. The teams were tied 117-all at the end of regulation.

Brandon Ingram finished with 22 points to lead the Pelicans.

© – AFP, 2019

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