NBA: Defending champion Lakers fall to Clippers

Before the game, the Los Angeles Lakers handed out rings celebrating their 2019-20 NBA championship.

Paul George

Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) shoots during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.   -  AP

Paul George scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated host Los Angeles Lakers 116-109 on Tuesday in the season opener.

Before the game, the Lakers handed out rings celebrating their 2019-20 NBA championship.

George converted 13 of 18 shots from the floor, including five of eight from 3-point range. Kawhi Leonard scored 26 points, Serge Ibaka added 15, Ivica Zubac and Lou Williams contributed 11 each and Patrick Beverley chipped in with 10.

LeBron James had 22 points, five assists and five rebounds while Anthony Davis added 18 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers. Former Clipper Montrezl Harrell had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Kyle Kuzma scored 15 points. Dennis Schroder amassed 14 points, a game-high 12 rebounds and eight assists.

The Lakers never led. Two free throws by Markieff Morris three minutes into the fourth quarter allowed them to close within 96-90 with 9:01 left, but the Clippers answered with a 13-4 run for a 15-point lead after a bucket by Leonard with 4:51 remaining.

The Lakers never threatened again.

After Schroder scored on a layup to tie the score at 75 with 5:04 left in the third quarter, George sparked a 14-3 surge by scoring 10 straight Clippers points for an 89-78 edge heading into the fourth. George's 15 points in the third helped the Clippers outscore the Lakers 33-24 in the period.

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The Clippers bolted out to an early advantage, leading by as much as 22 points in the first quarter. The Clippers owned a 39-19 lead after one period.

An 11-2 run by the Lakers cut the gap to 41-30 after a 3-pointer by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope midway through the second quarter. The Lakers sliced the deficit to 53-50 on a dunk by James with 1:39 remaining in the second.

James' three-point play with about a minute left in the quarter capped the first-half scoring, helping the Lakers pull within 56-54 at the break. The Lakers outscored the Clippers 35-17 in the second quarter.

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