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As celebrities and Gov. Gavin Newsom watched, the matchup of NBA A-list stars that had been anticipated since the game’s August announcement lived up to its promise in the Clippers’ 112-102 victory over the Lakers.
A sold-out crowd of split allegiances alternately booed and celebrated Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Anthony Davis – and then the game started.
After missing his first two shots and turning the ball over twice – a start that mirrored his team’s disastrous first four minutes offensively -- Leonard made seven consecutive field goals and assisted on two others to turn an 11-point Clippers deficit into a second-quarter lead. He finished with 30 points, six rebounds and five assists points. Sixteen of his points came in the second quarter.
Just as Leonard, the reigning most valuable player of last season’s NBA Finals, appeared unguardable for stretches, so, too, did the Lakers’ all-NBA duo of James and Davis in moments that led Clippers fans to boo and Lakers fans to chant “MVP!”
James finished with 18 points, two of which came on a transition dunk in the third quarter that he followed by staring down Clippers guard Lou Williams. James, who also had nine rebounds and 10 assists, later chased down Clippers guard Landry Shamet on a fast break to erase his attempted layup.
The Lakers fed Davis a steady diet of passes into the post, where he sized up the Clippers’ front line with back downs and floaters en route to 25 points and 10 rebounds. When they found their lanes to the basket blocked by the length of the Clippers’ long-armed defenders, they found Danny Green for 18 third-quarter points, an outburst that fueled a 15-0 Lakers run that leveled the score entering the fourth quarter.
For all of the control James, Leonard and Davis held over the game, it was a pair of non-stars who decided one of the game’s most pivotal moments.
With the Clippers leading 107-99 with 3:10 to play in the fourth quarter, Patrick Beverley – the Clippers guard whose career began in Ukraine, Greece and Russia – grabbed an offensive rebound over James and passed to Williams, whose assist found formerly unheralded forward Montrezl Harrell for a layup and foul.
The sequence gave the Clippers’ bench 60 points. Lakers reserves managed 19 points.
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s sound and fury from the stands, the Lakers and Clippers both said the season’s first game would signify “nothing,” as Clippers coach Doc Rivers reiterated before tipoff.
When the teams meet next on Christmas Day, things will certainly be different: the injured Paul George is expected to be playing for the Clippers, and Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo for the Lakers.
And yet, the charged atmosphere in the building certainly appeared to underscore something -- the prediction that the Western Conference could eventually run through Los Angeles.
The Lakers owned the majority of the arena, their fans roaring loudest even though it was a Clipper home game.
The Lakers owned most of the drama, LeBron James falling away, Anthony Davis spinning around, the beauty of the new duo both brilliant and breathtaking.
The Lakers owned every inch of the giltz Tuesday during the ballyhooed opening night city feud at Staple Center.
The Clippers owned everything else.
They owned the loose balls. They owned the defense. They owned the teamwork. They owned the fourth quarter.
They owned the Lakers.
They didn’t want to give their real names, but they wanted everyone to know the real story of what’s happening in Hong Kong.
As Kalpov and Sun Lared, pseudonyms they use for interviews, stood across the street from Staples Center on Tuesday evening, they walked up to fans going to the Lakers-Clippers game and asked them whether they wanted a free T-shirt.
The yellow-and-black shirts they were giving out read, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” It was the same message Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted Oct. 4 and later deleted that set off a geopolitical firestorm.
Sun started a GoFundMe account for the shirts and posted it on the Lakers’ Reddit page Oct. 7. His hope was to raise a few thousand dollars and print a few thousand shirts. Within two days, he had raised almost $43,000 and turned off the account.
“I posted it, went to bed, woke up, and I had over $20,000,” Sun said. “It exploded. I had to shut it down because I don’t know what do with that much money. I only want to do this once.”
Sun was able to print 13,000 shirts and mobilize more than 100 volunteers to pass out the shirts in a protest of what is happening in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy demonstrators are clashing with police. The volunteers chanted “Free Hong Kong!” and “Stand with Hong Kong!” as they passed out the shirts.
“I was thinking maybe 50 people would show up,” Kalpov said. “This is amazing. The support has been incredible.”
Juan Soto homered onto the train tracks high above the left field wall and hit a two-run double as the Washington Nationals defeated Gerrit Cole and the Houston Astros 5-4 Tuesday night in the World Series opener.
Ryan Zimmerman also homered to back Max Scherzer.
Soto finished with three hits and a stolen base. Three days shy of his 21st birthday, the left fielder also snared Michael Brantley’s try for late, tying hit.
The MVP when Houston won its first crown in 2017, George Springer set a record by homering in his fifth straight Series game to make it 5-3 in the seventh. But reliever Daniel Hudson threw a fastball past rookie Yordan Alvarez with the bases loaded to end the inning.
In the eighth, Springer put a charge into a drive to deep right-center field, and it appeared as though he might’ve hit a tying, two-run homer. Springer took a couple hops out of the batter’s box to watch, and had to settle for an RBI double when the ball hit off the glove of a leaping Adam Eaton.
Heavily favored at the start, the 107-win Astros will try to get even tonight when Justin Verlander faces Stephen Strasburg in another matchup of aces.
World Series schedule
All times Pacific. All games on Fox.
Game 1: Washington 5, at Houston 4.
Game 2: Today, Washington at Houston, 5 p.m.
Game 3: Friday, Houston at Washington, 5 p.m.
Game 4: Saturday, Houston at Washington, 5 p.m.
Game 5*: Sunday, Houston at Washington, 5 p.m.
Game 6*: Tuesday, Washington at Houston, 5 p.m.
Game 7*: Oct. 30, Washington at Houston, 5 p.m.
Anze Kopitar scored a power-play goal in the third period and the Kings beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2.
Austin Wagner and Kurtis MacDermid also scored for the Kings, who won their second straight game after losing the previous three. Jonathan Quick, who got an assist on Kopitar’s fourth goal of the season, stopped 26 shots.
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period and 2-2 following the second. The Kings outshot the Jets 21-5 in the first period and boosted the margin to 32-17 after the second.
Roman Josi and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist to lead the Nashville Predators to a 6-1 victory over the Ducks.
Ryan Getzlaf had the lone goal for the Ducks, losers of two straight. John Gibson started and gave up four goals on 19 shots through two periods before being replaced by Ryan Miller, who finished with nine saves.
Defensive end Christian Rector hasn’t practiced yet this week because of a high ankle sprain, and his status for Friday’s game against Colorado remains up in the air.
“He is a leader and you miss that leadership qualities out of him,” defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a said. “But I think we got a tight enough group, and I think we got enough talent — not I think, I know we got enough talent — to where these guys can step up and fill his shoes with no issues.”
Even as Rector sat out and defensive end Drake Jackson left early with his injury, a short-handed USC pass rush came alive last Saturday against Arizona. Nine defenders registered at least a half-sack, including several rotational players, whom USC may have to rely on in the weeks to come.
“Some guys are going to have to step up, including myself,” said linebacker Hunter Echols, who officially got the start at defensive end last week in Rector’s place. “We’re going to go into Colorado, and we can’t hang our heads because we have some of our best guys out. We have to continue to go out there and show who we are.”
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said his career-high 66 rushing yards against Stanford were partly a function of more read-option plays that give the Bruins another running threat besides Joshua Kelley and Demetric Felton Jr.
“When you don’t have me as an option,” Thompson-Robinson said, “you can just kind of zero in on Josh or Felt or whoever is in at running back, so yeah, it definitely gives another advantage to us going into the game. Now the defense has to worry about me.”
Thompson-Robinson said he did not feel limited by the sprained ankle and knee that had sidelined him for the end of his team’s loss to Arizona on Sept. 28 and the entirety of its loss to Oregon State on Oct. 5.
“The trainers took care of me, they got me healthy,” Thompson-Robinson said. “They wanted me to wear a brace just to have extra support [against Stanford], but I didn’t think I really needed it.”
In three-plus NFL seasons, Jalen Ramsey has become one of the league’s premier pass defenders and trash-talkers. Those talents were on full display in the Rams’ 37-10 victory over the Falcons on Sunday. Ramsey delighted teammates and Rams fans by mostly shutting down and jawing nonstop with Falcons star receiver Julio Jones.
That came as no surprise to Lt. Connor Johnson, a former Brentwood Academy teammate who attended the Air Force Academy.
“He’s always been the same exact guy,” Johnson said. “He’s a baller. He says what he wants, but he can back it up.”
Bernard Pollard, a former NFL safety, discovered the same when he helped train Ramsey for the NFL scouting combine. Ramsey was chosen by the Jaguars four picks after the Rams selected quarterback Jared Goff.“If he was a church mouse and he didn’t say anything, I don’t think that’s the same talent you’re going to see on the football field,” Pollard said.
The Chargers’ major issue on offense lately is as easy to find as their running game has been impossible to locate. They have rushed for 106 yards over the last three games. That’s fewer yards than seven rushers gained on their own Sunday.
Defensively, the issues are a little more subtle but when one in particular does appear, it couldn’t be more glaring. Missed tackles have led to several big plays, significant third-down conversions and highlight touchdowns for the opposition.
Statistically, the Chargers have defended well enough. They rank fifth against the pass, 10th in points allowed per game and 11th in total yards surrendered. They are 22nd in stopping the run.
“There’s hits and misses,” end Joey Bosa said when asked to assess the defense to date. “I think the pieces are there. We just have to tackle a little better and I think it’s a totally different ballgame.”
TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE
All times Pacific
No games scheduled.
BORN ON THIS DATE
1869: Football coach John Heisman (d. 1936)
1904: Golf coach Harvey Penick (d. 1995)
1905: Swimmer Gertrude Ederle (d. 2003)
1931: Baseball player Jim Bunning (d. 2017)
1935: Golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez
1940: Soccer player Pelé
1956: Archer Darrell Pace
1962: Football player Doug Flutie
1962: Football player Mike Tomczak
1966: Race car driver Alex Zanardi
1972: Soccer player Tiffeny Milbrett
1979: Boxer Jorge Solís
Highlights of Pelé's first game with the New York Cosmos. Watch them here.
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