Kawhi reigns supreme in battle for LA
WHILE we never have all the answers after one game, we do know one thing - the rivalry between the two teams in LA is alive and well.
In the first meeting between Kawhi Leonard in a Clippers uniform and LeBron James and Anthony Davis at the Lakers, the game lived up to the hype, spurred by a series of runs from both teams that kept it close right up until the end.
The Clippers' superior depth, though, shone through and they were able to take it out 112-102 after scores were all square at three-quarter-time.
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KAWHI BETTER THAN LEBRON
It's as if he never left the court. After dominating the Golden State Warriors on his way to winning the 2019 NBA finals MVP and leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise's first title, Leonard was at it again in Clippers colours. 30 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists showed off his all court game. With apologies to LeBron, who is 34 and on the downward spiral of his career, Leonard, 28 and in his prime, is now the better player.
We got our first look at James and Davis and how they might work together. It was dynamic in the first half, but LeBron really fell away after that and late runs were keyed more by unheralded players and Davis than the ageing legend. The worry is Danny Green had a 28-point 7 three-pointer explosion - and they still lost.
It's always been there, the Clippers bench depth. In fact, it's been a staple. But now it has a Kawhi to go with it. Leonard was the only starter in double digits, but the five bench players who took the floor on the night combined for 60 points - 8 more than the starters.
RAPTORS ROLL PELS ON BANNER DAY
Form is temporary, class is permanent.
And so it was as the Toronto Raptors were pushed all the way to overtime by the New Orleans Pelicans, but prevailed with superior offensive finishing and choking defence in the extra period.
Unveiling their 2019 NBA title banner - the first in franchise history - the Raptors players were rewarded with enormous championship rings.
Without Zion Williamson, the Pelicans weren't really expected to challenge, but a sluggish Raptors outfit allowed them to dictate much of the play.
Toronto relied on runs, rather than consistent play and, when the regulation buzzer rang, the scores were locked at 117.
But it was all Toronto in the extra period, finishing with an eight-point win, 130-122.
Kawhi who? After winning the Most Improved Player award last season, Siakam, in his fourth NBA season, was the natural candidate to step up after Leonard departed with the finals MVP. And boy, did he do it. 34 points, laced with 18 rebounds and 5 assists was a remarkable performance. The only blemish was he fouled out before the end of the game, leaving his teammates to shore up the win.
Early doors, it looks like nuggety guard Fred vanVleet is going to be the biggest beneficiary of Kawhi Leonard's departure. Aggressive and fearless, vanVleet poured in a career-high 34 points to go with 7 assists and 5 rebounds, the last of his five three-pointers icing the game in overtime.
With Zion Williamson out for up to two months, the popular belief is Lonzo Ball will get a ton of run and a chance to orchestrate his own team. Alvin Gentry appears to have other ideas. Ball hardly played in the second half, finishing with just the 8 points, with 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 25 minutes. Watch this space.
Toronto has handed out NBA championship rings to it's 2019 title-winning players that are bigger than any other in history.
Star guard Fred vanVleet put the ring on after the Raptors defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 130-122 and said "My hand hurts"
"It's a little heavy. I'm going to have to start lifting more weights so I can carry it around.
"But man what an amazing ring, what a way to cap off last year and what a way to start this year."
The rings contained:
14 carats of diamonds
More than 650 diamonds in all
Topped by a 1.25-carat diamond representing the Larry O'Brien trophy (the largest single diamond in the history of professional sports rings)
14 carats of yellow gold on the ring
16 rubies representing the Raptors' victories to win it all
The jersey numbers of all sixteen players on the roster.On the face of the ring, diamonds form the Toronto skyline above the word "North" spelled out in diamonds inside a golden chevron.
The Raptors also gave T-shirts and replica rings to 20,000 fans in attendance at the banner unveiling.