Regardless of the very fact they had been enjoying within the NBA’s bubble on the ESPN Broad World of Sports activities Complicated in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Thursday night time, they produced the identical entertaining, high-level recreation they’d performed the 3 times they met earlier this season at their shared residence enviornment of Staples Heart.
“We’re two groups in the identical metropolis and two groups that is preventing for one frequent objective,” Lakers star LeBron James mentioned on a video convention name after scoring 16 factors, grabbing 11 rebounds and doling out 7 assists within the Lakers’ 103-101 win over the Clippers. “And that is to win a championship and produce it to town of Los Angeles and [each] fan base. So you’ve gotten so many rivals on the ground — going on the market and representing the purple and gold, representing Laker nation; these guys are doing the identical factor for his or her fan base. It doesn’t matter what the [situation] is, it doesn’t matter what the bubble is, no followers, or [with] followers, basketball is basketball and aggressive spirit is aggressive spirit, so we’re proper again to the place we left off.”
Lengthy earlier than the NBA suspended its season March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Lakers and Clippers had been pegged by many as the 2 finest groups within the Western Convention. The battle for Los Angeles turned one of many largest showdowns of the season every time the groups squared off, a possible preview of the Western Convention finals. James acknowledged after Thursday’s recreation that the possibility to play towards Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George was one of many issues he missed probably the most after over 4 months with out NBA competitors.
“Taking part in towards the best basketball gamers on the earth at this stage,” James mentioned. “That is the final stage. That is the final stage that you would be able to get so far as enjoying basketball. … I have been enjoying towards plenty of nice gamers [in] this league in a 17-year profession. Two of them was on the ground tonight [George and Leonard] on their facet, and I’ve one on my crew as nicely [in Anthony Davis] so simply that aggressive — that spirit, that battle. … You wish to attempt to assist even for those who’re not capturing the ball nicely, you are not capable of do issues, you may at all times assist in different methods. Both by your voice or getting a defensive cease, simply your presence. That is what’s enjoyable in regards to the recreation.”
What made it much more particular for James was the truth that he scored the go-ahead basket with 12.eight seconds left after lacking a 16-foot leap shot and getting his personal rebound. It was the primary time in his two seasons with the Lakers that he made a go-ahead basket within the ultimate 15 seconds, in keeping with ESPN Stats & Data analysis. James beforehand had been 0-for-6 on these photographs in his transient Lakers profession.
James additionally scored or assisted on 13 of the Lakers’ 27 fourth-quarter factors and performed nice protection on George within the waning seconds to shut out the victory.
“I really like having the ball in my fingers late within the recreation, tie recreation, being down, being up,” James mentioned. “We had a three-point recreation with like 40 seconds to go; we had an ideal search for Danny [Green], he missed it — Paul George got here again and hit a three to tie the sport. For me, simply attempt to be aggressive. I felt like I obtained some contact on the elbow by Marcus Morris Sr.; they did not name it. However prefer it was advised to me as a child since I began enjoying basketball, there is not any whistle, you retain enjoying on. So I used to be capable of observe my very own shot and put us up, and put us up for good.”
With the win, James handed Lakers nice Kobe Bryant and veteran ahead Clifford Robinson, and is now alone in ninth place on the all-time regular-season wins listing with 837, in keeping with Elias Sports activities Bureau.
Whereas all indicators level to the Lakers and Clippers squaring off once more in some unspecified time in the future through the playoffs, Davis wasn’t getting wrapped up within the crew’s first recreation again being a preview of what would possibly come towards its metropolis rival.
“I am apprehensive about my crew, and that is the Lakers,” Davis mentioned. “We will not management what different groups do, how they play and what they’re gonna do. So we solely can management what we are able to management — and that is how exhausting we play and going on the market and competing each night time.”
For James, performing once more on the NBA stage in entrance of his a few of his friends and shut pals meant so much. Confidants Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony had been two of a number of gamers who got here in on an off night time to see the Lakers and Clippers play.
“I feel it is a respect factor,” James mentioned. “We’re all brotherhood, and positively having CP and Melo. … Trying over there and seeing a few of our guys in our league … I feel it is simply fairly cool and hopefully all through the course of this time that we’re right here I could make it to a couple video games too simply out of the love for the sport. You do not have that a lot time to observe a recreation dwell over the course of a daily NBA schedule. … It is a huge AAU feeling for grown males and I wish to attempt to benefit from it.”