Clippers stop Lakers 103-97, Kawhi scores 14 back

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard had 14 points and seven rebounds in his first game in 16 months, and the Los Angeles Clippers opened a season of lofty expectations Thursday night with a 103-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Paul George scored 15 points and John Wall added 15 on his debut for the Clippers, who held out for the eighth consecutive time to beat their more purebred rivals in Los Angeles.

Leonard came off the bench for the first time since 2013, playing 21 minutes in his first game since tearing a ligament in his right knee in a playoff game in June 2021. The two-time NBA Finals MVP decided to retire from a temporary reserve role after missing all of last season while recovering from surgery.

The Clippers’ high hopes for their first championship rest largely on Leonard’s ability to return to elite form. They didn’t make it out of the play-in last spring without Leonard and with just 31 games from George, but both are now healthy alongside five-time All-Star Wall, who immediately sparked.

Anthony Davis scored 25 points despite apparently impaired mobility after falling mid-game, while LeBron James had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the 20th home opener of his career. Lonnie Walker scored 26 points.

The Lakers dropped to 0-2 but still came from two big deficits and kept it close to the last minute despite nightmarish shooting performances from Russell Westbrook (0 for 11) and fellow point guards Patrick Beverley (1 for 7) and Kendrick Nunn (0 to 7) in their Lakers home debut. The Lakers scored 9 for 45 on 3-pointers overall.

Westbrook again struggled on offense but made some impressive defensive plays while guarding Leonard on the long course.

The oft-injured Davis shocked fans when he fell to the ground after being undercut in the third quarter. He got up and went to the tunnel to stretch, but came back a few minutes later.

The Clippers broke into a close game immediately after Davis left the floor, eventually scoring 17 consecutive runs in under three minutes. But the Lakers cleared that 15-point deficit with a 24-7 run, even taking the lead with 8:01 to play down an alleyway from Austin Reaves to Walker.

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