Simply put, there was no game on the 2019-20 NBA regular season schedule for the Los Angeles Lakers that was more highly-anticipated than their third meeting against the Los Angeles Clippers before the eventual hiatus.
Though the Lakers maintained a better record through the season, the Clippers had won the first two meetings on Opening Night and Christmas Day, leading many to proclaim them as the Western Conference favorites.
Adding to the anticipation was that the Clippers were finally completely healthy and coming together, having won six straight games. Meanwhile, the Lakers had just picked up their biggest win of the season over the Milwaukee Bucks and were looking to cap off their biggest weekend by taking down the other top championship contender as well.
What ensued was undoubtedly the most satisfying Lakers win in seasons.
As has often been the case this season, the Lakers fell behind in the first half, trailing by nine points as the Clippers threatened to put this game away early. However, the Lakers would respond, closing the gap at halftime.
Los Angeles began to take things over at the end of the third quarter led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis as usual. They would then score the first eight points of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 12. They never looked back from there and James would stamp home that win with a thunderous dunk as the Lakers vanquished the Clippers 112-103 to stake their claim as the championship favorites heading into the 2020 NBA playoffs.
James furthered his growing 2019-20 NBA Most Valuable Player case with 28 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists while Davis led the Lakers with 30 points, but the player of this game was Avery Bradley. Bradley scored a season-high 24 points and knocked down six three-pointers in what was easily his best game in a Lakers uniform. It was also more proof the team’s biggest strength — their defense — can ultimately deliver on the biggest stages.
The Lakers held the Clippers to just 39.5 percent shooting from the field and an abysmal 22.6 percent from the three-point line. The Lakers also forced 15 turnovers, which eclipsed their total number of assists (12).
Paul George led the Clippers with 31 points and Kawhi Leonard added 27 points but aside from Montrezl Harrell, the rest of the Clippers supporting cast was non-existent thanks to Bradley and the Lakers suffocating defense overall. Harrell scored 20 points, but his fellow Clippers role players combined for just 22 points on just 9-of-42 shooting.
In terms of entertainment from a pure basketball perspective, there may have been a game or two better than this one. However, when considering the anticipation surrounding this game, the energy in the Staples Center, and the satisfaction of defeating a full-strength Clippers team, there was no better game in the regular season than this one.