There were great shots, great stops and the biggest stars the NBA has to offer. Yes, the battle for Los Angeles lived up to the hype.
The Clippers won a shocking 111-106 win over the Lakers on Wednesday, moving 2-0 against their rivals Pacific Division this year. Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 35 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. The Lakers are led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis for 47 points, but shot just 17-of-41 from the field (3-of-18 on 3-pointers).
But it was the annoying Clippers guard Patrick Beverley who came up with the biggest game of the night – a James swat in the final seconds that sealed a comeback win.
MORE: We get the 76ers’ dominant win over the Bucks
Here are three takeaways from an exciting Christmas day competition at Staples Center.
Kawhi Leonard one step above the other stars
LeBron, AD, Paul George – forget them. No one shines as bright as Leonard, especially in the fourth quarter. He found 11 of the Clippers’ last 21 points, helping the team close the Lakers 17-5.
Leonard also accepted the challenge of defending James one-on-one, harassing the four-time MVP and doing his best to prevent James from getting the ball. James gave up nearly a triple double (23 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds), but failed to get the usual performance (9-24, 2-of-12 from beyond the arc).
Davis had similar shooting games and reached just four points in the final frame. George never found the curve, finishing with 17 points in 18 shots.
Leonard was just at a different level on Wednesday night and there was no room for discussion. Oh, and by the way, he’s now 15-8 in his career against LeBron.
Patrick Beverley with a lot of Patrick Beverley game
How else to put it? Classic Pat Bev.
The 31-year-old guard did not publish the craziest stat line, but reached a huge mark when it mattered most. Beverly attacked the boards in his usual wilderness, striking out nine rebounds, five of which in the fourth quarter alone.
Most importantly, Beverley did what turned out to be James’ attitude to the game. With the Lakers having three points and less than 10 seconds on the clock, James attempted a 3-pointer but was stripped of Beverley. Slow-motion repetitions showed that the ball squeezed LeBron’s fingers before falling out of bounds, resulting in turnover and sealing the victory.
Here’s the number that really tells the story: Beverley was a plus-26 in 32 minutes. No one was better than the co-13.
The guy makes things happen.
A building block for Kyle Kuzma
James and the Lakers weren’t looking for silver lining, but Kouma looked good!
Brought energy off the bench by 15 points in the first quarter. He showed great confidence and did not hesitate with the ball in his hands.
Kuzma finished with 25 points at the top of the team and eventually won the sixth Man of the Year nominees Montrezl Harrell (18 points) and Lou Williams (six points) combined.
Perhaps this attempt against an elite opponent will serve as a turning point for Kuzma. He’s gone up and down with injuries and fluctuations in minutes from coach Frank Vogel, but could use it as a springboard for the new year.