After about a four-month-long hiatus, the NBA made its official return yesterday with the first slate of games that included the highly anticipated final regular-season matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.
For fans who have been following, they'll know that these two teams are not only fierce rivals in the West, but also two of the best teams in the league. If things go as projected, they're headed for a collision course at some point in the playoffs, which is why last night's game was so important.
While it wasn't a postseason matchup, their performance may be an indicator as to how they will fare in the weeks to come. It also gives us a taste as to how they match up against each other.
While the Lakers pulled away with the narrow victory, the Clippers certainly have a lot to cheer about, including the pairing of Paul George and Kahwi Leonard. While they were on the floor together last night (26 minutes in total), they were dominating, ending up with a +16 +/- rating and +12 in the 16 minutes those two played against LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They also combined for 58 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists.
On Reddit, one fan made sure to give the Clips their dues after the two-point loss.
I think Clipper fans can take some positives from this game as well. The star wing pairing was as advertised (although 3 missed FTs in the 4th from them will sting) with the tide of the game turning once both went to the bench in the 3rd. Lou and Harrell's return should help in preventing the team from falling apart when the star duo sits. Patrick Beverley was also impactful in limited minutes while Reggie Jackson failed to impress with starters minutes. Those roles will flip come playoff time as well.
With a few more minutes of the PG/Kawhi combo, this game could've easily swung the other way. Even amid encouraging defense from the Lakers, and their inspiring performance in the end, it is clear that the George/Leonard partnership was the best on either side last night.
And, no matter which side you root for, that's something to consider as this season nears its epic conclusion.