Kawhi Leonard Outduels LeBron James, Anthony Davis as Clippers Beat Lakers

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 23, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22:  Danny Green #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers plays defense against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers on October 22, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard started his Los Angeles Clippers' tenure on the right foot with a 112-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday at Staples Center.

Leonard led the Clips with 30 points, and Lou Williams scored 21 to lead a second unit that finished with 60 points on the night.

Danny Green, Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined to score 71 of the Lakers' 102 points.

The Clippers were without Paul George, who will be out until at least November as he continues to recover from surgeries he had on both shoulders this offseason, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.

Leonard, the Clippers' other All-Star acquisition, made his regular-season debut after leading the Toronto Raptors to the NBA championship last year.

The James-Davis duo also made its debut for the Lakers in a losing effort.

               

Notable Performances

Lakers F Anthony Davis: 8-of-21, 25 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists

Lakers F LeBron James: 7-of-19, 18 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists

Lakers G Danny Green: 10-of-14, 28 points, 7 rebounds

Clippers F Kawhi Leonard: 10-of-19, 30 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals

Clippers F Montrezl Harrell: 7-of-11, 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists

Clippers G Lou Williams: 8-of-14, 21 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds

    

Kawhi Leonard Fits Seamlessly With Clips

The Clippers didn't roll into this game on a wave of positive momentum.

The preseason didn't go well, as the Clips went 2-3 (0-3 versus NBA teams). As Jovan Buha of The Athletic noted, they struggled to get going offensively.

"The Clippers' offense has been ugly and dysfunctional. Their 96.3 offensive rating is 29th out of the 38 teams that played in the preseason. If we only account for the Clippers' NBA opponents, their offensive rating drops to 84.6—worst in the league behind the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies."

Leonard didn't get much run with his new teammates, playing only two games while averaging 16.6 minutes per contest. As such, a sluggish start wouldn't have been a big surprise.

That's exactly how the season opener started. The Lakers ran out to a 13-2 lead, while the Clippers shot 0-of-4 with two turnovers.

But the two catalysts for the Clippers' 48-34 season last yearLou Williams and Montrezl Harrellcame off the bench early to rejuvenate the offense. And from that point on, the Clips rolled, even posting a 40-point second quarter.

Leonard's jumper felt near-automatic at times in the first half, as evidenced by this long-range jumper with the shot clock winding down:

And he showed great early chemistry with Harrell off a back cut for a slam:

The 2019 NBA Finals MVP has played for three teams in three seasons, but it seemed as though he's been playing with his Clippers teammates for years. That's a scary proposition for the rest of the NBA.

    

Lakers' Stagnant Offense Struggles in Debut

Lakers great Magic Johnson used the word "stagnant" to describe the team's offense Tuesday, and fellow Basketball Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal did as well on Inside the NBA.

That's a fair assessment.

Davis and James shot a combined 15-of-40 (37.5 percent) on the night. Both shot above 50 percent from the field last year, which suggests those numbers will rise as the season goes on.

But anyone not named James, Davis or Green struggled. The Clippers' reserves outscored the Lakers' second unit 60-19.

That's the most concerning takeaway from the Lakers' season opener.

Jared Dudley finished with a plus/minus rating of minus-20. Troy Daniels and Quinn Cook were minus-13 and minus-nine, respectively. The bench had more fouls (12) than field goals (seven).

No Laker outside Davis, Green and James had more than three made field goals, and Avery Bradley (the lone exception) had only three.

Kuzma, who averaged 18.7 points per game last season, will help fix the Lakers' lack of complementary scoring upon his return from a left foot injury. And being without point guard Rajon Rondo didn't help, either.

But the Lakers could have even deeper issues. Silver Screen & Roll explained one of the problems:

Some context is important. Eight of the 10 players who suited up for the Lakers did not play for the purple and gold last season. The two who did—James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope—are playing their first season under new head coach Frank Vogel.

Until Kuzma and Rondo return, the Lakers may struggle against teams with deeper benches like the Clippers. The big-picture question is whether those two can help the Lakers from getting stagnant offensively in crunch time moving forward.

        

What's Next?

The Lakers will stay in town to play the Utah Jazz on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET. The Clippers will travel north to face the Golden State Warriors in their regular-season debut at San Francisco's Chase Center on Thursday at 10:30 p.m.

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