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Zach is sick today (actual illness, not load management). But we’ll figure out the correct punishment for teams losing by 51.
The Battle of L.A.
About LeBron’s latest takeover
The NBA had a busy Wednesday. Denver notched its first loss, getting cooked 110-89 by Minnesota, which gave the champs all they could handle last postseason. Dennis Schröder and Pascal Siakam were the best duo in a game with Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, as the Bucks lost 130-111 to the Raptors. Klay Thompson’s game-winner capped a 102-101 Warriors win over the Kings.
Still, the night belonged to LeBron James, who led a 130-125 Lakers overtime win over the Clippers. Constant chatter about LeBron’s age can be pretty annoying:
“Look how high he jumped at 38! It’s as high as he jumped at 37! Will he jump that high in December, when he turns 39???”
Seriously, though, this was a night for the juxtaposition of his age and ability. LeBron played 42 minutes — far more than the 29 minute-limit Lakers coach Darvin Ham levied once and hasn’t reiterated since. And, on a court with Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Paul George and Russell Westbrook, LeBron was the best player.
Oddly enough, the Battle of L.A. was full of locally raised players. The Clippers have natives Leonard, George and Westbrook, with James Harden preparing to join the fold. Entering last night, the Clippers owned L.A. to the tune of 11 straight wins against the Lakers.
But on Wednesday, the L.A. locals were beaten by Midwest-raised stars — none bigger than the kid from Akron. With 35 points, 12 rebounds and seven dimes, LeBron once again cleared the high bar he often sets.
Leonard (game-high 38 points) cooked for much of the game. As did George, who scored 20 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter. Davis looked elite with 27 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in 48 minutes. But by the end, LeBron was the most. Along with shooting 6-of-8 after halftime, LeBron was a menace defensively. He had two blocks, but it felt like five due to how he protected the rim.
By the way, since playing 29 minutes in the Lakers’ opener, LeBron has averaged 37.3 per game. He’d have to average 22.4 over his next five appearances to get within Ham’s desired 29-minute range.
The Latest From Shams
Philly confident in Oubre’s early impact
Most of the talk surrounding the Sixers over the past few months has been about Harden, who’s now a member of the LA Clippers after this week’s blockbuster deal. Part of the reason the Sixers felt comfortable making a move, I’m told, was the early-season play of the roster around reigning MVP Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.
A key member of that supporting cast has been Kelly Oubre Jr., whom I had the chance to catch up with before the deal went down. Oubre averaged 20.3 points per game last season with the Hornets but was a free agent until days before training camp began, joining Philly on a one-year deal.
The 27-year-old, who is putting up 19 points per game this year, called the free-agency process “very disheartening” but is looking to continue proving himself as the 76ers move forward post-Harden. We’ll get our first glimpse of the new-look Sixers tonight against Toronto.
Back to Marcus for more.
Three Questions with Law Murray
How can the Clippers pull this off?
In Tuesday’s edition of The Bounce, our Zach Harper gave five reasons why he didn’t like the Harden deal. He probably could’ve doubled that. A key one is the incongruence of Westbrook and Harden. Not only have we already seen them not work well in recent years, but the Clippers run the risk of ruining the gem they’ve found in Westbrook.
But we’ll keep things positive in case, you know, this actually works and we need to be able to say we told you so. To see how the Clippers’ new core can work, we solicited The Athletic’s, Law Murray, for the task:
What will be the Clippers’ biggest challenge with their new core?
The Clippers needed athleticism and size this offseason but left with neither. Entering the post-Harden trade portion of the regular season, they went from several power forward options to a committed downsizing. George and Leonard are starting forwards, which is fine for the perimeter but requires a different level of physicality. P.J. Tucker and Kobe Brown as the Clippers’ next two power forwards add strength but no athleticism.
How could their most impactful lineup look?
Everyone is already anticipating when the Clippers will go small. Head coach Tyronn Lue must get better execution from his small lineups — especially offensively, where an interior presence goes a long way. But playing Swiss Army knife Terance Mann will go a long way towards the Clippers playing complementary two-way basketball. Lineups with Mann can help the star unit of Westbrook/Harden/George/Leonard switch and run.
Could this core, with Lue at the helm, win the Clippers’ first title?
Under Lue, the Clippers have made the playoffs twice. Leonard didn’t finish the season either time, and the 2021-22 Clippers were robbed of George before completing the Play-In tournament. Lue is yearning to see this through with his two main stars healthy. With Harden now onboard, there’s a level of maximum offensive control in place. Veterans can’t be bored or show signs of selfishness. Pursuing a championship isn’t easy, but the Clippers have the personnel to give it a shot.
On This Date
Kareem’s point-happy block party
Imagine putting up 39 points, 23 rebounds and 10 blocks (with five assists!) and being benched for the game’s biggest moments.
That happened to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on this date, 48 years ago. He lit up the Atlanta Hawks in a 116-113 Los Angeles Lakers win. It remains the only such 35-20-10 game in the last half century.
But with 2:03 left in overtime, Abdul-Jabbar fouled out. It took a late jumper by Lucius Allen and a breakaway layup by Cazzie Russell to pull out the Lakers victory.
In only his sixth appearance as a Laker, Abdul-Jabbar capped a four-game stretch with 34 blocks, his most over any four-game span ever.
Introducing: The Outta Pocket Awards
Sometimes, players and teams can get lost in the moment and do something a bit silly in or around a game. The season’s first week or so was no exception to folk getting outta pocket, so let’s see our finalists:
Though no Tyrese Haliburton probably means a loss, playing like runners-up at a 24-Hour Fitness tournament is inexcusable. Indy allowed 46 fourth-quarter points to the end of the Celtics’ bench, including 11 points in eight minutes by Dalano Banton. The Pacers should be relegated to the G League for a week after this. Or, like, be the halftime show at IUPUI vs. Valpo or something.
There’s a feeling the Wizards could win several of these this season.
The Athletic NBA Show examines whether the Cavaliers are in trouble.
Read Tim Cato on if Luka Dončić can maintain his MVP-quality start.
Sam Amick writes about what’s next for Daryl Morey post-Harden.
Tony Jones explains why the Jazz are being patient with Keyonte George.
Screen Game (All times Eastern)
(Top photo: Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images)