Anthony Davis got the Los Angeles Lakers off to a strong start and they recovered from squandering an early lead to finish with a 103-101 win over the L.A. Clippers in a choppy first seeding game of the NBA restart. Davis led all scores with 34 points, but it was LeBron James who had the game-winning basket.
Considered questionable heading into the day because of lingering discomfort as a result of being poked in the eye last weekend, Davis quickly went to work against the interior of the Clippers’ defense.
He drew four shooting fouls within the first seven minutes of the game and went on to pour in 14 points as the Lakers held a 35-23 lead after the opening quarter. LeBron James had five assists as he largely played facilitator, which was a theme that held throughout the night.
Kawhi Leonard picked up two early fouls but quickly found a rhythm and began to turn the tide upon checking back in during the second quarter. Leonard proceeded to score 11 of the Clippers’ 17 points during one stretch.
It was reminiscent of Leonard taking over against the Lakers’ reserves during a regular-season matchup. Paul George also helped stabilize the Clippers and he sparked them early in the second half.
The Lakers led by as many as 14 points, only for it to be cut to two by the start of the third quarter. George connected on back-to-back 3-pointers early on, giving the Clippers their largest lead of the game at 61-55.
The Lakers deficit continued to grow until James connected on a 3-pointer with 6:50 remaining for their first basket in the third quarter. That wound up marking the start of a small rally for the Lakers, which was aided by George and Patrick Beverley each pick up four fouls.
Davis scored eight points in a flurry, helping the Lakers cut the Clippers lead to just 77-74 heading into the fourth quarter. At that juncture, Davis and Kyle Kuzma (10 points) were the only Lakers in double figures.
True to his style of play, James found a way to still impact the game. He found Kuzma for a 3-pointer, forced the Clippers into a turnover on a shot clock violation, and connected from behind the arc.
A 17-3 run helped the Lakers open a 91-80 lead that was cut to one point but never lost. George’s 3-pointer tied the game with 28 seconds remaining, but James answered by following his own shot for a game-winning putback.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel made it clear he intends to use the seeding games as an evaluation period to determine how or if JR Smith and Dion Waiters will fit into a playoff rotation. Waiters received more opportunities in the opener and made the most of it.
Waiters both helped carry the bench unit offensively and spaced the floor when playing in a lineup with Davis and James. Waiters finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes.
Smith was scoreless on one shot attempt in seven minutes.
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