Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) had 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and pushed his team to a late victory against the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday in Orlando, Fla. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
July 31 (UPI) -- Anthony Davis scored a game-high 34-points and LeBron James made a go-ahead layup late to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a dramatic win against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second game of the NBA restart in Orlando, Fla.
The Lakers held on for the 103-101 win despite 30 points from the Clippers' Paul George and 28 points from Kawhi Leonard. The game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort was the first for the Lakers and Clippers since the NBA season was suspended in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"It feels like we have a long way to go to reach the habits and disciplines we were playing with when we entered the hiatus," Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters.
"We did enough to get the win, but we have a lot of work to do."
Both teams were without several key players due to opt-outs tied to the pandemic, quaratines or injuries. Still, the game stayed close until the final seconds, when James drove the Lakers to a win with strong effort on offense and defense.
The Lakers had a six-point lead with 2:29 remaining. George responded with a personal 5-0 run to cut the lead to one point before James answered with a layup with 1:26 remaining.
Danny Green attempted to distance the Lakers, but missed a 3-pointer with 43 seconds remaining. George responded with a game-tying 3-pointer with 28 seconds left on the clock.
James then took control on the other end of the floor. The four-time NBA MVP dribbled the ball near half court before he drew two defenders. James used his large frame to fight through the opposition and threw up a right-handed shot, which hit the rim.
James followed the shot and got his own rebound, despite being surrounded by all five Clippers players. He made the follow-up attempt with just 12.8 seconds left in the game.
Leonard and George worked to give the Clippers a victory on the game's final possession, but James used strong defense to prevent both Clippers stars from clear shot attempts. George hit the back of the rim with a heave at the buzzer.
"I love having the ball in my hands late in the game, a tie game, being down or being up," James said.
Davis had 14 points in the first quarter to lead the Lakers to a 35-23 edge in the frame. Leonard responded with 14 points in the second quarter to help the Clippers cut the lead to 54-52 at halftime.
Davis scored 10 points in the third quarter, but the Clippers used an 8-0 run in the frame to gain control of the contest. The Clippers held a 77-76 edge as they entered the fourth quarter.
The Lakers responded in the fourth quarter with a 12-0 run, which included 3-pointers from Dion Waiters, Kyle Kuzma, James and Danny Green. The barrage of drained downtown attempts gave the Lakers a 91-80 edge with 7:57 remaining.
George then put together his late run before James hit the go-ahead shot and used lock-down defense to secure the victory.
"We are still trying to figure it out," Leonard said. "It was a good game. We still had fun out there. It was great to be back on the floor."
James had 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the win. Kuzma scored 16 points and had seven rebounds off the bench for the Lakers. Patrick Beverley scored 12 points off the bench for the Clippers.
No fans were allowed to watch the clash between the top seeds from the Western Conference due to coronavirus safety precautions, but the game still had playoff intensity.
"Intensity was going to be there regardless," George said. "You have two teams that know each other very well. It is important for us to start off this stretch [strong] just as it is for them. At the end, we know what we have. But it's a marathon.
"We will learn from the mistakes we had."
The Lakers battle the Toronto Raptors in their second of eight seeding games at 8:30 p.m. EDT Saturday in Orlando. The Clippers face the New Orleans Pelicans at 6 p.m. EDT Saturday in Orlando.