Heading into the 2020-21 season, the Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers were touted as the two best teams in the Western Conference for the second year in a row.
The Clippers got the best of the Lakers on Opening Night, winning 116-109. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were the better star duo in the matchup, scoring a combined 59 points compared to 40 points between LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Despite the stumble after their emotional pregame ring ceremony, the Lakers have bounced back with two blowout wins against the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves. Meanwhile, the Clippers won on Christmas Day against the Denver Nuggets but were blown out by the Mavericks on Sunday.
It was a historical day for the NBA and Staples Center as it marked the first time two games were decided by more than 35 points in the same arena, via STATS:
At Staples Center today, the Mavericks beat the Clippers by 51 and the Lakers beat the Timberwolves by 36.
It's the first time in NBA history there were two games decided by 35+ points in the same arena on the same day.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) December 28, 2020
The Lakers defeated the Timberwolves by 36 points, while the Clippers were blown out by the Mavericks to the tune of 51 points.
The Lakers’ victory was expected, especially when considering that Karl Anthony-Towns was forced to sit with a wrist injury. But the Clippers’ collapse was shocking to watch despite Kawhi Leonard’s absence.
Fortunately, the Lakers were on the right side of history as they displayed what they can look like when they are firing on all cylinders. Offensively, the ball moved from side to side and they were able to get quality looks on nearly every possession while defensively they stifled a Timberwolves team that had been playing well prior.
Head coach Frank Vogel was pleased that his team did not let their guard down and instead played as well as he could have hoped.
“There were a lot of upsets around the league today, and our guys came in with a mindset of we weren’t happy with our defense in the first two games, want to really pick that up, and we really got after it,” Vogel said.
“The depth was on display with the many way this team can put points on the board and the defensive talent we have as well.”
Vogel using games as extended practice time
Although the Lakers were well ahead in the second half, Vogel opted to give his starters and key bench players extended minutes. He admitted the lack of practice time influenced his decision.
“No question about it” Vogel said. “We talked openly about that with our group. These games matter, but these first few games are still part of what would normally be a preseason. We’re going to explore with combinations and get guys up to speed.
“We wanted to have a mindset that when we got a big lead that the score was irrelevant and we’re working on our habits.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!