The Los Angeles Clippers maintain bragging rights over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019-20 as they were 111-106 winners on Christmas Day at Staples Center.
The Clippers took the first head-to-head encounter on opening night to gain an early edge in the battle for Western Conference supremacy.
Entering the year, the teams' respective stars did their best to play down any intracity rivalry. However, The Athletic's Sam Amick reported in-depth Monday that the Lakers came away frustrated by how Kawhi Leonard handled his free agency, which provided an obvious storyline building up to Wednesday's game.
Beating the Lakers again likely gave the Clippers some added satisfaction.
Patrick Beverley blocked a game-tying three-point attempt by LeBron James with 3.6 seconds remaining to preserve the win.
Although the Clippers and Lakers play twice more this season, plenty of fans will be clamoring for a seven-game playoff series between the teams.
- Kyle Kuzma, PF, Lakers: 25 points, four rebounds, one steal
- Anthony Davis, PF, Lakers: 24 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks
- LeBron James, SF, Lakers: 23 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds, two steals, one block
- Kawhi Leonard, SF, Clippers: 35 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, one steal
- Paul George, SF, Clippers: 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, three blocks
Kawhi Shines Brightest on Christmas
As much as he was doing on defense, George couldn't find his shooting stroke, and Lou Williams was largely anonymous too.
Luckily for the Clippers, they still had Kawhi Leonard.
The Clippers fell behind early and thus had to play catch-up for a lot of the game. The Lakers continued to do just enough to keep their opponents at bay.
Then Leonard hit a game-tying three-pointer with 5:15 remaining.
In general, this win was yet another showcase of how great the two-time Finals MVP is when he's firing on all cylinders.
Beverley being the player to seal the result was fitting, though, because the veteran guard was all over the floor. He guarded the perimeter, crashed the boards and helped orchestrate the offense.
There's no question George and Leonard will determine how far the Clippers go in the postseason. Stars effective decide the outcome of the Finals.
Having said that, the likes of Beverley and Montrezl Harrell—who had 18 points and six boards off the bench—arguably make the difference when the Clippers are matched up against the NBA's best teams.
Kyle Kuzma's Season-High Point Total Not Enough
James' status was briefly up in the air as he battled a minor groin injury. James suited up and played 39 minutes but didn't look like himself and struggled to make an impact offensively. He still finished with a double-double and nearly had a triple-double but shot 9-of-24 from the field.
In addition to the groin injury, James was being guarded by George, one of the NBA's premier perimeter defenders, for stretches.
Somebody needed to step up for the Lakers, and Kyle Kuzma answered the call.
The backup power forward caught some heat from his teammates for his pregame wardrobe but had the last laugh.
Kuzma's three-point shooting was particularly valuable since the Lakers were collectively 12-of-45 from beyond the arc.
JaVale McGee only scored two points but was a terror inside early on, recording five blocks.
In the first meeting, the Clippers led 62-54 at halftime, which gave them a buffer when the Lakers started strong out of the gate in the second half.
This game was the exact opposite, with the Lakers ahead 63-51 at the half, and the combined contributions of Kuzma and McGee helped them build such a sizable early lead they were ultimately unable to maintain.
The Clippers welcome the Utah Jazz on Saturday. The Lakers hit the road Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers before a five-game homestand.