Leonard, Clippers outfox Lakers in ‘Battle of Los Angeles’

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, is defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard at the first half of an NBA game on Tuesday in Los Angeles. (AP)
Updated 23 October 2019

Leonard, Clippers outfox Lakers in ‘Battle of Los Angeles’

  • The two LA teams made significant changes but the Clippers appeared to have added more value

Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers won the opening round of Los Angeles’s revitalized battle for basketball supremacy on Tuesday, defeating LeBron James and the Lakers 112-102 in a pulsating season-opening clash at the Staples Center.

Leonard, who arrived at the Clippers in the off-season after leading Toronto to the NBA title last season, wasted no time roaring back into action, leading the scoring with 30 points.

“It was great. A lot of emotions, game one,” said Leonard, who grew up in Riverside, 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

“I am just happy we came out and got a victory. We had great practices and some carry over from that tonight.”

The Clippers attacked the rim, forced easy turnovers, used a stingy defense to keep James and his new sidekick Anthony Davis in check.

Leonard also had six rebounds and five assists, reserve guard Lou Williams finished with 21 points and power forward Montrezl Harrell tallied 17 points and seven rebounds.

James shot seven-of-19 for 18 points and Davis shot eight-of-21 for 25 points for the Lakers who are hoping their offseason changes will boost the team’s fortunes after they finished a disappointing 37-45 and failed to qualify for the postseason for the sixth season in a row.

“It is the first game,” said James. “It was a huge test. We have a lot of room to improve. We are a new group with a new system. We did some good things and we did some not so good things.

“We look forward to getting some film and seeing some of the mistakes we made.”

The one bright spot for the Lakers was newcomer Danny Green who scored 28 points by hitting 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts, including seven of nine from beyond the arc. Davis said he and James will need time to get used to each other on the court.

“We are both aggressive so sometimes we miss each other,” Davis said. “We are still learning and just trying to figure it out. This is game one of many.”

A 19-7 run to begin the fourth quarter helped the Clippers seal the win and hold off the Lakers the rest of the way.

The two Los Angeles teams made some of the most signficant changes but the Clippers appeared to have added more value.

Every one of their bench players reached double figures on Tuesday as they outscored the Laker reserves 60-19. Williams outscored the Lakers reserves by himself.

He said the Clippers didn’t want to just win, that they are tired of playing second fiddle to the Lakers and wanted nothing more than to dominate their city rivals.

“We always play with a chip on our shoulder,” Williams said. “For last two months all the talk has been about the Lakers versus the Clippers.

“We hear that we are the Junior Varsity team, or little brother, or whatever. We are pros too. That’s why we have a chip on our shoulder.”

The Lakers roared to a 13-2 lead after a basket by Davis less than four minutes into the contest. However, the Clippers stormed back, cutting the deficit to 25-22 at the end of the quarter.

Clippers outscored the Lakers 40-29 in the second quarter and led 62-54 at halftime.

Thanks to the addition of Leonard from Toronto and Paul George from Oklahoma City, the Clippers are one of the early front runners to contend for a title.

“We would love to win a championship and I think we are going to compete at high level and give ourselves an opportunity,” said Williams


What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

Updated 03 June 2020

What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

  • Restart to begin with 2 matches on June 17, to ensure every side played same number of games

LONDON: The Premier League's return is just two weeks away but there are plenty of details for the 20 clubs in the English top-flight to work out before competitive action resumes on June 17.

AFP Sport looks at what is on the agenda at the latest in a series of meetings between the clubs on Thursday.

There have been squabbles over how final league standings should be decided if the season cannot be completed but clubs need a contingency arrangement if a spike in coronavirus cases wrecks their plans.

Most of the teams in the bottom half of the table are reportedly pushing for relegation to be scrapped if the season is not completed on the field.

That still seems highly unlikely, with the English Football Association and English Football League both insisting on promotion and relegation throughout the pyramid.

A points-per-game formula is the most likely option and is part of the reason why the restart will begin with two matches on June 17, to ensure every side has played the same number of games.

Once the two outstanding games — Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United — have been played, all 20 sides will have nine games remaining.

No dates for other matches have yet been released, but fixtures are expected to continue from where they left off in March and be crammed into just five weeks ahead of the FA Cup final on August 1.

A long layoff, little time together in contact training and a gruelling schedule mean players' bodies will be pushed to the limits.

In an attempt to minimize injuries and fatigue, world governing body FIFA has allowed leagues to temporarily change their rules to allow five substitutes.

Chelsea have also reportedly proposed increasing the number of substitutes available from seven to nine.

However, critics have suggested those changes will simply play into the hands of the bigger clubs with deeper squads.

Premier League clubs appear to have won their battle to have games played in their own grounds rather than on neutral sites.

However, the UK's national lead for football policing confirmed last week that a "small number" of fixtures will take place at neutral venues.

That is likely to include any match that could see Liverpool crowned champions for the first time in 30 years, to try and avoid crowds gathering at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is unconcerned by playing at neutral venues, with results from four rounds of Germany's Bundesliga showing no advantage for home sides in a closed-doors environment.

"We will not have the help from the crowd but no team will have that, so where is the advantage?" Klopp told the BBC.

"Whoever we play it is the same situation, which is why I'm not too worried about it."

The use of VAR could also be dispensed with for the rest of the season should the clubs wish to further cut the number of people required for games to go ahead.

However, the Premier League's CEO Richard Masters is keen for it to remain.

"VAR has its own social-distancing issues, but we think there is a way of completing the season with VAR," Masters told Sky Sports.