The National Basketball Association resumed play last night as teams vie for the final spots in the 2020 playoffs. The New Orleans Pelicans squared off against the Utah Jazz as the battle for LA between the Lakers and Clippers commenced. Neither game disappointed fans watching at home, as both contests went down to the wire.
A matchup between the Lakers and Clippers this late in the season would normally sell out months in advance. Yet, last night’s game was anything but a sellout. Instead, only a few dozen members of the media, NBA staffers, and a handful of other players watched from socially distanced seats.
Video feed from select fans watching the game from home were even displayed on monitors at the ends of edge court. It was weird. It was odd. But it was exciting. This is the current state of professional sports amid coronavirus.
Both teams started off slow and sloppy, having a difficult time removing the rust from a four-month hiatus. The first quarter was quite embarrassing. The two teams combined for 21 fouls. The Lakers went two of eight from behind the arc, while the Clippers missed all seven of its three-point attempts.
The lone bright spot was Anthony Davis’ 14 first-quarter points. The Lakers took a 12-point lead into the second quarter.
The Clippers did not quit despite having a tough month leading up to the league’s return to play. Two of the league’s top sixth men — Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell — were out. Ivica Zubac just returned to practice this week after testing positive for coronavirus in late June. And Patrick Beverley is still working on his conditioning.
The Clippers slowly cut the Lakers lead to two in the second quarter before taking an 11-point advantage in the third quarter. They held their lead into the fourth quarter thanks to Paul George (30 points) and Kawhi Leonard (28), who couldn’t miss from “downtown.”
After the Lakers crawled back to take a three-point lead, Paul George made a three of his own to tie the game with 28 seconds remaining.
Typically, the 20,000 fans at Staples Center would be going crazy at this moment. Aside from the music pumping through the loudspeakers, only the coaches and bench players could be heard barking instructions during the game’s final seconds.
With just two seconds on the clock, LeBron James followed his own miss in the paint to give the Lakers a 103-101 lead. The only sound came from the Lakers bench.
On the other end of the court, LeBron clamped down on the 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The small forward dished the ball to Paul George, who was immediately covered by James. With the Lakers’ superstar glued to his hip, George tossed up an off-balance three-pointer that rimmed off.
Although the Lakers won this battle, the war rages on.