The Los Angeles Lakers were unable to complete a late-game comeback and ultimately fell to the rival Boston Celtics, 121-113, on Thursday evening after returning home from a long road trip.
The Lakers simply had no answer for Jaylen Brown, who exploded for 40 points on 17-of-20 shooting, scoring nearly everywhere from the floor. Los Angeles fell down by as much as 22 points but the bench unit fought until the very end. However, it was not enough as Brown was able to knock down clutch shots to make sure the Lakers never got over the hump.
While the loss stings, there was a noticeable difference for L.A. as it was the first time during the 2020-21 season they have had fans in attendance at Staples Center. California governor Gavin Newsome recently eased coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols, which allows the Lakers to host a limited number of fans for the remainder of the season.
Kyle Kuzma noted after the game that the small crowd provided some sense of normalcy for the team. “A lot of energy out there, having fans was just a little bit different especially for us, we haven’t had fans since March and I think we’re all glad to just have something else a little bit normal,” Kuzma said.
Head coach Frank Vogel echoed Kuzma’s comments, noting that the arena had more life to it.
“I did see them, I did hear them. I know it’s not full capacity, but it was great to have our fans back,” Vogel said. “Watching us and cheering us on. It’s a different level of energy and juice and hopefully continues to grow.”
The Lakers allowed 1,915 fans at Staples Center and each group was separated several seats away from each other as the venue complies with health and safety protocols. However, as the coronavirus pandemic situation hopefully continues to improve, more fans should be in attendance.
Having fans back at Staples Center could be the much-needed boost the Lakers need as they look to mount their title defense in the next month or so. It is no secret the players have missed playing in front of Lakers Nation, so it was a welcomed sight to see them in the stands for the first time in over a year.
Kuzma also commented on how having fans in the arena can help the Lakers get some wins to close out the regular season.
“Yeah, for sure, especially with us, we have a lot of guys that are banged up and a lot of guys that played a lot of minutes and a lot of guys that are out. So having fans is really gonna help us down the stretch, just figuring out some energy.”
Lakers on track for home court advantage in first round of playoffs
When the roster is healthy, the Lakers are the team to beat for the 2021 NBA Championship. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis still on the mend, there was a real possibility that L.A. would start the 2021 NBA playoffs on the road.
However, the team was able to rack up enough wins on their recent road trip to give them a good shot of locking up home court in the first round. It will be interesting to see how the standings shake out in the next few weeks.
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