Leonard, Clippers outfox Lakers in ‘Battle of Los Angeles’

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, is defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard at the first half of an NBA game on Tuesday in Los Angeles. (AP)
Updated 23 October 2019

Leonard, Clippers outfox Lakers in ‘Battle of Los Angeles’

  • The two LA teams made significant changes but the Clippers appeared to have added more value

Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers won the opening round of Los Angeles’s revitalized battle for basketball supremacy on Tuesday, defeating LeBron James and the Lakers 112-102 in a pulsating season-opening clash at the Staples Center.

Leonard, who arrived at the Clippers in the off-season after leading Toronto to the NBA title last season, wasted no time roaring back into action, leading the scoring with 30 points.

“It was great. A lot of emotions, game one,” said Leonard, who grew up in Riverside, 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

“I am just happy we came out and got a victory. We had great practices and some carry over from that tonight.”

The Clippers attacked the rim, forced easy turnovers, used a stingy defense to keep James and his new sidekick Anthony Davis in check.

Leonard also had six rebounds and five assists, reserve guard Lou Williams finished with 21 points and power forward Montrezl Harrell tallied 17 points and seven rebounds.

James shot seven-of-19 for 18 points and Davis shot eight-of-21 for 25 points for the Lakers who are hoping their offseason changes will boost the team’s fortunes after they finished a disappointing 37-45 and failed to qualify for the postseason for the sixth season in a row.

“It is the first game,” said James. “It was a huge test. We have a lot of room to improve. We are a new group with a new system. We did some good things and we did some not so good things.

“We look forward to getting some film and seeing some of the mistakes we made.”

The one bright spot for the Lakers was newcomer Danny Green who scored 28 points by hitting 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts, including seven of nine from beyond the arc. Davis said he and James will need time to get used to each other on the court.

“We are both aggressive so sometimes we miss each other,” Davis said. “We are still learning and just trying to figure it out. This is game one of many.”

A 19-7 run to begin the fourth quarter helped the Clippers seal the win and hold off the Lakers the rest of the way.

The two Los Angeles teams made some of the most signficant changes but the Clippers appeared to have added more value.

Every one of their bench players reached double figures on Tuesday as they outscored the Laker reserves 60-19. Williams outscored the Lakers reserves by himself.

He said the Clippers didn’t want to just win, that they are tired of playing second fiddle to the Lakers and wanted nothing more than to dominate their city rivals.

“We always play with a chip on our shoulder,” Williams said. “For last two months all the talk has been about the Lakers versus the Clippers.

“We hear that we are the Junior Varsity team, or little brother, or whatever. We are pros too. That’s why we have a chip on our shoulder.”

The Lakers roared to a 13-2 lead after a basket by Davis less than four minutes into the contest. However, the Clippers stormed back, cutting the deficit to 25-22 at the end of the quarter.

Clippers outscored the Lakers 40-29 in the second quarter and led 62-54 at halftime.

Thanks to the addition of Leonard from Toronto and Paul George from Oklahoma City, the Clippers are one of the early front runners to contend for a title.

“We would love to win a championship and I think we are going to compete at high level and give ourselves an opportunity,” said Williams


Real Madrid near title with 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao

Updated 06 July 2020

Real Madrid near title with 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao

  • This was Madrid’s toughest fixture left and they might have been content even with a point

MADRID: Sergio Ramos scored his 22nd consecutive penalty on Sunday as Real Madrid held on for another 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao to inch closer to winning La Liga.

Ramos’ fifth goal in seven games since the restart gives Madrid a seven-point lead over Barcelona.

Anything but a victory for Barca would probably leave them too much to do with four games remaining, especially as Madrid own the superior record head-to-head.

This was Madrid’s toughest fixture left and they might have been content even with a point against a robust, well-organized Bilbao side.

But after edging out Getafe on Thursday, through a Ramos spot-kick, Madrid repeated the trick at San Mames, their captain’s nerve from the spot combining with a gutsy display to grind out a pivotal win.

Ramos was perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty himself when, off the ball, he seemed to slip and tread on the foot of Raul Garcia, but Madrid escaped.

Instead, the defender’s 10th goal of the season, the best tally of his career, gave Madrid their third 1-0 win in a row, as well as a fourth consecutive clean sheet.

“It’s a massive win,” said Ramos. “We knew today was going to be one of the biggest games that we have left. It’s always a difficult game away at Bilbao and we saw it like that. We’re happy with another crucial three points that put more pressure on Barcelona.”

Ramos said he is always confident on penalties.

“In those moments of doubt that’s when I feel most comfortable. I wanted to take the responsibility,” he said. “But if I wanted individual recognition I would play tennis.”

Bilbao’s Iker Munain said Madrid had again been lucky with decisions.

“We’re not going to win it thanks to the referees,” said Ramos. “People have to look at themselves and be critical of their own performances. Based on the points, it seems we’re doing well at the moment.”

Madrid were without key players, with Raphael Varane nursing a neck injury and Eden Hazard out with pain in his ankle.

Eder Militao replaced Varane while Marco Asensio made his first start in 14 months up front.

There were chances at both ends in the first half and Bilbao had the best of them. Williams twice went close but was denied by a block by Marcelo and then a superb tackle by Militao while Raul Garcia’s header was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois.

Karim Benzema would have had a tap-in had Dani Carvajal executed a cushioned pass across the box but his touch was too high.

Asensio’s free kick had created the chance and he swung in two more brilliant crosses before half time, only for Rodrygo and Benzema to miss with their heads.

The second half was tighter as both teams slowed in the heat and a more cautious contest seemed to suit Madrid, whose moment came in the 73rd minute.

Marcelo was rewarded for a lung-busting run into the box, where he reached the ball just ahead of Dani Garcia, who twisted his body into the left-back and bundled him over.

Referee Jose Gonzalez consulted VAR and awarded the penalty, which Ramos whipped into the bottom corner.

Bilbao looked tired and never really threatened an equalizer but could have been gifted one had Ramos been penalized for the clumsy collision with Raul Garcia. Ramos survived and Madrid held on.