Lakers get the (Brown) out treatment in fans return

LOS ANGELES – Having fans back at STAPLES  Center was at the heart of the Los Angeles Lakers playing the Boston Celtics. After going missing in action for the past 13 months because of safety protocols put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans were once again allowed to come and watch an NBA basketball game live.

It was a much different experience for everyone in this first time go around. First, a typical Lakers-Celtics clash would be a no-brainer sellout of STAPLES Center. But since this is the first time that fans could come back into entertainment venues under the watchful guise of the Los Angeles County and state restrictions, the audience was reduced to less than 2,000 people.

The 1,915 lucky people in attendance got treated to two hours and 12 minutes of great basketball. It’s too bad that their Lakers came out on the short end of a 121-113 defeat to the Celtics. It was a little weird seeing and hearing real fans boo the Celtics and actually cheer on their Lakers instead of being replaced by props and generated noise.

It also felt strange that the fans were coming back without the presence of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the two players that led the team to the title last season. Well, that’s because both are currently out of the lineup nursing injuries, although Davis was cleared earlier in the day to go full speed ahead in regards to workouts.

And before tipoff, Davis was out on the court, shooing jumpers and going through some basketball drills, which signals the forward/center is close to returning. The injury bug has riddled the Lakers all season. Out versus the Celtics were center Andre Drummond (toe injury) and forward Markieff Morris.

That means the visiting Celtics had a real advantage over the short-handed Lakers. And it showed. Celtics forward Jaylen Brown did whatever he wanted to against the Lakers, going for 40 points after making 17 of 20 shots from the field.

“Just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” Brown said in a postgame press conference. “Celtics-Lakers is a matchup that kids dream about on the floor. So, regardless of who’s on the court, I’m excited to play.”

Brown’s performance wasn’t the result of a one-quarter scoring outburst or going off during a particular half. Brown went about his night with the chopping wood approach. He scored 10 points in the opening quarter and chipped in 11 in the second period to end the first half with 21 points.

He added 10 more points to his totals in the third quarter before wrapping up the game with nine points in the fourth.

“Credit to him,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “A remarkable performance; 17 for 20 from a guard is really a special performance.”

Without Drummond, Davis, and James clogging up the middle, Brown had his way inside the paint as did the Celtics as a whole. Minus the shot-blocking abilities of Drummond, Davis, and Anthony, Boston burned the Lakers inside the paint with 58 points. Granted, the Lakers scored 50 points of their own up close to the basket but not having their three big men in the lineup hurt on the defensive end.

Although the Lakers were missing their main offensive players (for a while now), head coach Frank Vogel continues to get the most out of the players he has to work with.  Talen Horton-Tucker came off the bench to led the Lakers with 19 points.

In a shade over 20 minutes of playing time, center Marc Gasol came up with 18 big points. The Lakers also got 17 points from the recently signed Ben McLemore. A couple of positives for the Lakers? Outside of Brown going off, they pretty much kept the other Boston players in check. No other Celtic scored more than 15 points in the game.

The problem with that equation is that the Celtics had two players who finished the game with 15 points (Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard) and two (Jayson Tatum, Tristan Thompson) who scored 14 points apiece. Combined, Brown, Smart, Tatum, Pritchard, and Thompson were responsible for 98 of the Celtics’ 121 points.

“Tonight, he was really dialed in scoring the ball,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Brown’s big game. “You’re not going to shoot as efficiently as he did tonight. Obviously, that’s like once-a-season type numbers, usually. But he’s had a great year and he continues to get better. Tonight was the night that he got going, and we tried to ride that as much as possible.”

Featured Image: Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown (7) shoots against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)