The Loop

Kawhi sh*t-talking LeBron and LeBron getting the last laugh made all the waiting worth it

In the grand scheme, Thursday night’s Lakers-Clippers game meant absolutely nothing. Sure, it’s possible the Clippers could drop out of the 2 seed in the West, meaning they could get the Houston Rockets or Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round as opposed to the Dallas Mavericks, but it’s not like they’ll lose any home-court advantage in the bubble. As for the Lakers, they’ve locked up the 1 seed in the West.

But if you watched the second half, you’d have thought you were watching Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. After a sloppy start, both teams locked in late, trading baskets right up until the final buzzer. The most fascinating matchup of the night was, of course, Kawhi Leonard vs. LeBron James, and the few times they linked up made all the waiting during the pandemic worth it.

Leonard won one of their first battles early in the second half, when James drove to the bucket looking to give the Lakers the lead. He was denied by Leonard, and instantly began pleading for a foul call. In typical Kawhi fashion, he simply stated “all ball” three times in LeBron’s face. It was glorious:

Folks, this is the good stuff. This is what we’ve been waiting over four months for. Stars on stars. Sh*t talk that you can hear because there are no fans in the stands. Calm, cool, collected Kawhi vs. theatrical, always-looking-for-a-call LeBron. Lakers vs. Clippers. Anyone who says they wouldn’t sign for this matchup in the Western Conference Finals right now is an idiot.

LeBron didn’t have his best performance (still almost had a triple-double with 16/11/7), but he did get the last laugh. First, after the Clippers made a furious late comeback to tie the game 101-101, James threw up a floater that was short and got his own rebound despite being surrounded all five Clippers, laying it back in for the eventual game-winner with 12 seconds remaining:

They probably won’t show that one in rebounding class. How do you let this happen?

Yikes. On the ensuing Clippers possession, LeBron LOCKED up Kawhi and made him dish it to Paul George, who threw up a running three that bricked:

Game-winning bucket. Game-winning defense. MVP type stuff from the King in the NBA’s return. It's extremely good to have sports back.