LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL – Virtual fans and trumpets in the noise of the crowd. A chapter between two MVPs of former finals, playing in front of real people. Battle of Los Angeles about 3,000 miles from Staples Center.
Lakers 103, Clippers 101.
The NBA is back.
The opening of the night in the resumed NBA season finally came to us on Thursday and what a strange experience. The game at the end of the Lakers-Clippers season would be an almost impossible ticket to Los Angeles. Fans will pack LA Live hours before tipoff. The scalpers will have a field day. In the bubble, this match coincided with a dozen or more media members, several other NBA officials and a handful of players who rushed to watch from socially remote places.
Lawrence Tanter, the legendary announcer at the Lakers̵
During the waits, the usual fun in the Lakers game was played on the court screen.
For WHO, exactly, is a little vague.
The American-wide social justice movement was highlighted during the NBA restart and continued on Thursday. Players climbed to the floor in black T-shirts, with black LIVES MATTER printed on the front. Social justice messages have replaced names on the backs of T-shirts. Two-minute motion motion video played after warmups. Hours earlier, in a gym on a football field, pelicans and jazz knelt for the national anthem. The Lakers and Clippers did the same, connecting weapons, as a pre-broadcast from the Compton Kid’s Club exploded through speakers hanging from the ribs.
As he knelt, his 58-year-old knee patient, the minds of Clippers coach Doc Rivers turned to George Floyd, whose death in the knee of a Minnesota police officer ignited the movement.
“The hardest thing that happened to me in today’s game was kneeling for two minutes,” Rivers said. “My knee hurts. In the middle, I think my knee hurt in two minutes, but there was still a man who had a knee to someone’s neck for eight minutes. There were boys who needed towels and things to get on their knees. And someone kneels on the neck of another human being for eight minutes. This is anger when you think about it. “
The game, predictably, was not much. No one expected a three-week training camp and three scrams to erase the corrosive effects of a four-month hiatus. And it didn’t happen. The first quarter was abnormal. The two teams combined for 21 fouls. The Lakers made two of eight three-point attempts. This is a sharp shot compared to Clippers, who missed all seven. Anthony Davis scored 14 points in the first quarter. The Lakers finished with a 12-point lead.
The clippers could be folded. It was a difficult month for the other LA team. The composition is devastated by diseases and external problems. Two of the NBA’s top six men – Lou Williams and Montresl Harel – did not play. Marcus Morris was late. Stripe Zubak, diagnosed with COVID-19 in late June, has just returned to practice this week. Patrick Beverly is still working back in the form of the game.
The clippers did not give up. They cut ten points from the Lakers’ lead in the second quarter. They built an 11-point lead in the third quarter. They held the lead, entering the fourth. Paul George (30 points) and Kauhi Leonard (28) took a three-pointer, nine of them, over the Lakers’ defenders.
George trio equalizes the game with 28 seconds left and that’s when you feel the whimsy of the moment again. A game with ties, two of the elite of the Western Conference and in normal times a crowd of 20,000 plus will roar. Instead, Rivers’s hoarse voice was heard over the music. Beverly barked instructions for protection. When James allowed his own pass with 13 seconds left, the only sound came from the Lakers bench.
James wasn’t done either. After the Clippers’ final possession, James clung to Leonard. Leonard brought the ball closer to George. James turned it off. With James on his hip, George tried to balance a three-pointer that slipped away.
One defensive possession, two elite defensive games.
Not bad for a 35-year-old in his 17th season.
“The rhythm, as offensive as it is to take pictures, will have to take a little longer to get back,” James said. “But the only thing you can do is protect. You can always communicate … you can have teammates who support you when you make a mistake. Communication on the part of the defense is something that should always be directed. “
One game down, seven for the playoffs and both teams know there is work to be done. “For me, we have a long way to go to reach the habits and discipline we played with when we entered the hiatus,” said Frank Vogel. The condition remains a factor. The shooting rate at three points will increase. The in-game experience will continue to be a tweak – about 300 Lakers video conferencing fans to watch the game – as it will play without the energy of the crowd.
“When we play there, we don’t really notice that there are no fans in the game,” Davis said. “We just go out there and compete and just try to make a profit. They do a good job with the noise of the crowd … but when we’re out, we compete, we’re just five … the more we use this arena, the easier it will be. “
The games will not be beautiful. The environment will be strange. But four months after the global pandemic ended its season, the NBA returned. For the players, for the league, that’s all that matters.