LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers showed some rust.
They knocked it off with time to spare.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points, James had the go-ahead basket with 12.8 seconds left and the Lakers moved closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs by topping the Los Angeles Clippers 103-101 on Thursday night in the second game of the NBA’s re-opening doubleheader.
James had 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to help the Lakers move 61/2 games ahead of the Clippers in the West with seven games remaining. Kyle Kuzma added 16 points.
“It felt like a real game to me, two teams battling. ... Can’t complain for the first game,” Davis said.
Paul George had 30 points and Kawhi Leonard scored 28 for the Clippers, who had an 11-point lead midway through the third in a game with deep ebbs and flows. The Clippers got that lead after a 26-5 run; the Lakers immediately rebutted with a 36-14 run to reclaim control.
And it still came down to the final moments.
George’s 3-pointer with 1:50 left cut the Lakers’ lead to 99-98. James muscled his way to a layup on the next possession, and then George hit another 3 to tie the game at 101 with 29 seconds remaining.
James followed his own miss down the lane for the go-ahead basket, then was brilliant on the last defensive possession — forcing the ball out of Leonard’s hands and covering George as his 3-point try at the buzzer misfired.
“We can’t have self-inflicted wounds and I thought we had too many of them,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose team — which remains short-handed with Lou Williams still in quarantine and Montrezl Harrell tending to a family matter — gave up 29 points off turnovers.
Thursday marked the NBA’s first game action in 141 days, the league getting back to work after the coronavirus pandemic forced a shutdown.
JAZZ 106, PELICANS 104
Rudy Gobert sank two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to cap a 14-point, 12-rebound and three-block performance, giving the Utah Jazz a 106-104 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in the first game of the NBA’s restart on Thursday night.
New Orleans, which led for most of the game and by as many as 16 points, nearly pulled out the victory as time expired when Brandon Ingram’s 3-point attempt rimmed out in a bitter end to his 23-point night.
“He’s made a ton of big shots for us this year, but the bottom line is I don’t think it should have come down to that,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We let a golden opportunity slip away.”
Zion Williamson, who missed nearly two weeks of practice after leaving the team for a family medical matter on July 16, was deemed fit to start, although his playing time was limited.
He scored 13 points in just more than 15 minutes, highlighted by a couple alley-oop dunks, one on a nearly half-court lob from Lonzo Ball.
But Williamson checked out for good with 7:19 left in the fourth quarter and watched the tense finish from the sideline.
“Of course we wish we could have played him down the stretch, but he’d used the minutes that was given to us, so that’s the way it is,” Gentry said. “We weren’t going to stick him back out there.”
Williamson said he “did want to be out there, but we’re just working my way back into my flow. That’s all it is.”
Jordan Clarkson scored 23 points for Utah and helped lead a second-half comeback, while Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley each added 20.