We were deprived of NBA basketball for almost five months, so it’s only right that it returned with quite the bang in its first day back. Props to the basketball gods.
Let’s have quick recap of how the two meetings went: The opening game had the Utah Jazz defeating the New Orleans Pelicans in a come-from-behind victory, 106-104. It was then followed up with yet another intense clash between the LA teams, as the Lakers squeaked past the Clippers, 103-101, to tie the series at two game apiece.
Now, on to the takeaways.
Rudy Gobert fittingly made the first basket of the restart
Rudy Gobert has had a rough couple of months. He not only endured COVID-19 complications, he also took on the anxiety it entailed and a giant wave of aggressive, ruthless fan hate.
Yes, he deserved the backlash, but now that much of the dust has settled and the league is finally back, it’s great to see and certainly fitting that he tallied the first points of the restart.
Zion’s limited playing time is weird
Zion only played 15 minutes and kept getting inserted in spurts. While he made the most out of it by scoring 13 points, he was visibly shying away from the boards, so much so that he didn’t have a single rebound – probably the first time it happened in his career.
The rookie left the bubble over a week ago to attend to a personal matter. He came back earlier this week and completed the required quarantine period. No injuries were also reported.
What made it really weird, though, was how it was managed. He didn’t see the floor for the last seven minutes of a must-win, closely-contested game – every game is as important as they come because they’re gunning for the West’s last playoff spot.
The rust is clear… like really, really clear.
Everyone’s intensity and excitement was through the roof, and all that energy translated into some sloppy basketball for all four teams. The entertaining back-and-forth on both games hid it well, but the numbers are staggering: they combined for a whopping 76 turnovers (40 from the Pelicans and Jazz, and 36 from the Lakers and Clippers).
Don’t be shocked to see the same turnover stats over the next couple of days or so.
The elite superstars can turn it up anytime they want
That’s what LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard reminded us today, particularly ones who were caught having knee-jerk reactions because of the game’s herky-jerky flow. Don’t forget: the two are robots and their switch to enter a different level is always there.
Kawhi was coming off three terrible scrimmage games, and it truly concerning as he went an appalling 9-for-37 in those contests. He quickly erased those doubts by racking up 19 points in the first half and finishing with 28.
LeBron, on the other hand, got off to a slow start in the game. He only took two shots in the first quarter and looked a bit passive. He then flipped his switch in the all-important fourth quarter, particularly in the crucial stages. James made a lead-extending lay-up while the Clipps were gaining momentum, and also connected on a go-ahead putback with only 12.8 seconds remaining. Defensively, he put his dancing shoes on and took on Leonard and Paul George on the final play of the game.
Why is Anthony Davis not getting MVP buzz?
This is not to take anything away from LeBron, who’s doing superb things for a 35-year-old, but there’s no good reason why Anthony Davis is not a serious MVP candidate.
His play today screamed that statement yet again. Davis was, as always, is the number one option on offense, and he’s still responding well to the call. He put up a game-high 34 points to go along eight boards and four assists, and kept the Clippers from pulling away during the Lakers’ cold stretch in the third period.
AD also leads the Lakers in points (26.7), rebounds (9.4), steals (1.5), and blocks (2.4) per game.
SIDE NOTE: Clipper Marcus Morris still can’t buy a bucket against the Lakers
Twin brother Markieff probably has mixed feelings about this. He has to be happy that an opponent isn’t playing well against his team, but on the other, he’s likely be bummed that out of all the players, it’s his brother and lifelong best friend.
Marcus has played three games opposite the Lake Show this season – one as a New York Knick and two as a Clipper, and it has contrasting results.
As a Knick, he scored a team-high 20 points last January 22nd, but in two meetings with the Lakers as a Clipper, he’s a combined 0-for-13 with one point and nine fouls in 47 total minutes. Oof.