Kawhi Leonard outshines Anthony Davis in battle of superstar debuts
Leonard scores 30 points, Davis disappears late in Clippers' 112-102 victory over the Lakers
The Clippers will have to wait to see their superstar perimeter duo in action as Paul George continues to mend from offseason shoulder injury. But even with just Kawhi Leonard in uniform, it was still too much for the rival Lakers to handle in Tuesday’s season opener.
A change in scenery did nothing to disrupt the two-time Finals MVP’s customary efficiency as he poured in 30 points on 10-for-19 shooting in his first game for the Clippers. The outburst helped spoil fellow franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis’ debut with the Lakers and — perhaps more importantly for the perpetual second fiddles in Los Angeles — carried the Clippers to a 112-102 victory.
“It was great,” said Leonard of his L.A. homecoming. “You know, a lot of emotions. Before the game, last night, there were a lot of emotions, knowing that my family was going to be here tonight. I’m just back here playing at Staples, in my hometown. It’s amazing.”
The first of four regular-season meetings between these intracity rivals more than lived up to months of hype, with the Clippers turning back multiple Lakers surges throughout the course of an entertaining game at Staples Center.
Leonard scored 20 points on just 11 shots in the first half, drilling seven straight at one point on a variety of trademark turnarounds and measured drives. Combined with 13 points from Lou Williams, the Clippers dropped 40 on the Lakers in the second half to take control by eight entering the break.
Davis wasn’t as efficient, missing 6 of his first 11 shots. But he also pummeled the Clippers inside to the tune of 12 free-throw attempts in 17 minutes. He finished with 18 at the break, while LeBron James chipped in with 14. No other Laker had more than six, however, as they struggled to keep pace with the deeper Clippers.
It was more of the same in the third quarter, when the Clippers raced ahead by 14. But even after a monster 15-0 surge gave the Lakers an 85-82 advantage, the Clippers — following Leonard’s lead — calmly responded to retake control over the final 12 minutes and cruise to victory.
Davis, meanwhile, was nearly invisible in the second half. He finished with 25 points on 8-for-21 shooting.