Photo via CBS Sports
In a possible preview of the one of the most anticipated Western Conference Finals in recent memory, the Los Angeles Lakers came out on top in a back-and-forth game. Anthony Davis led all scorers with 34, while Paul George had the most efficient night, hitting six threes in a 30-point effort, including a few big ones to keep the Clippers in the game. Kawhi Leonard added 28 for the Clippers, while Lebron had 16-7-11 on a pretty inefficient shooting night.
So what did this meeting tell us about this potential one-two matchup? Well, it’s hard to say with Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell sidelined for the Clippers, and the fact that this is the first competitive game played in over four months. However, what we did see was the depth of both teams, who each had 11 men see the floor. The Lakers ultimately proved the deeper team on this occasion, with big contributions from Kyle Kuzma and new acquisition Dion Waiters. Will this be the case when the Clippers add two of their top-five players back to the rotation? This remains to be seen.
Anthony Davis was the key to this game, and it wasn’t what I would consider a great game. When he got the ball in the paint, he scored and there was no one to stop him. When he got the ball on the perimeter or mid-range, the Clippers forced him to settle for bad drives or low-percentage shots from outside the paint. If the Lakers can find ways to get him the ball inside, he is the key to their success. If he is held outside, he becomes a player that doesn’t help them win. He did hit two big threes in the fourth quarter, but these were open shots that were good looks. It becomes a problem when he is fed the ball 20 feet from the basket, and the best shot he can create is a falling away jumper that he just isn’t that good at. On this occasion, the Lakers were able to get enough of the good Anthony Davis to pull out a victory.
On the other side of the ball, Paul George emerged as the go-to scorer in crunch time. It was George hitting the threes with only minutes left in the game, not Kawhi. Aside from complaining about absolutely no contact on the final play of the game, he came through big for the team. He had eight points in the final three minutes of the game. It is scary that the Clippers have two of these crunch time options, and I believe that in the playoffs, this team will not drop many close games that they have a shot at winning.
Are the Lakers now the favorites in the West? I still think that on paper the Clippers have the best roster, but the Lakers came through with a below-average game from LeBron. A seven-game series between these teams would be fascinating to watch, but we will have to see if they can fulfill the hopes of many and reach the Conference Finals.