The Los Angeles Lakers received their championship rings in a heartfelt ceremony, but then were sluggish to start and faded in the fourth quarter of a 116-109 loss to the L.A. Clippers, who were led by Paul George catching fire.
The Laker defense was flat out of the gate as they allowed the Clippers mostly clean looks along the perimeter, with Serge Ibaka accounting for eight of their first 16 points. LeBron James also struggled shooting, missing his first three field goal attempts and a pair of free throws before nailing a corner 3-pointer.
Montrezl Harrell dished a nice pass to Kyle Kuzma along the baseline for more scoring, but Kawhi Leonard began to bully his way to the rim for free throws and layups. A combination of turnovers and poor shotmaking was the Lakers’ undoing and they went into the second down 39-19.
Their offensive woes continued as a Kuzma three was the only basket for the first four minutes of the quarter. The Clippers also started to go cold from the field, which allowed the Lakers to go on a 10-0 run before Leonard earned an and-1.
Anthony Davis finally started to get going after draining a pair of free throws, and a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope fastbreak dunk brought the game within single digits. Dennis Schroder was aggressive and found success scoring both at the basket and beyond the arc, while a much stronger defensive showing allowed the Lakers to cut their deficit to 56-54.
The stars for each team began to heat up at the top of the third as they traded baskets on nearly every trip down. James and Davis appeared to finally get their legs under them on their jumpshots, but Leonard made sure the Clippers remained in front.
With James on the bench, Harrell and Schroder were able to carry the scoring burden for the Lakers and keep them within striking distance. However, a spurt from George gave the Clippers some breathing room, putting the Lakers in a 89-78 hole.
James had his hand in every offensive possession to begin the fourth, finding open teammates while also looking for his own when driving to the rim. Caldwell-Pope came up limping after taking a hard screen, but was fortunately able to remain in the game.
Things started to slip away from the Lakers as Leonard and George took turns torching them in isolation situations. Although Harrell and Schroder played well in their respective Lakers debuts, Marc Gasol had five fouls and Wesley Matthews also left plenty to be desired.
Lakers ring night streak snapped
The Lakers lost their season opener to the Clippers last year and also had a modest two-game winning streak on ring night snapped.
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