With the first-round of the playoffs underway, the most noticeable difference in the games has been the addition of nearly full crowds. The Lakers are set to get their first experience with that at home in the playoffs on Thursday, and while they won’t quite have the capacity that the Suns had in Phoenix (90% capacity and nearly 16,000 fans) they will have their largest crowd of the year when they host their first playoff game at Staples Center since 2013 tonight.
The Lakers say they are expecting around 7,500 fans tomorrow at Staples Center for Game 3 against the Suns.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) May 27, 2021
LeBron James is excited about the change.
“It’s going to be pretty special for our fans, to just have fans in the building” James said after Game 2. “We want to continue to make them proud and that’s what I came here for; to be able to play a playoff game in front of the Laker faithful.”
More than 50% of fans around the country agree with him, and said in our latest SB Nation Reacts poll that the inclusion of fans has significantly improved the overall viewing experience. Only 16% of fans said it hasn’t improved their experience at all.
In addition to making the games more fun to watch — and more importantly, more fun for the players to play in — having fans in attendance provides at least the semblance of a home-court advantage. Unless you’re the LA Clippers, that is.
But even if the Lakers have generally shot worse in Staples Center for years, two-thirds of the team’s fans believe that the purple and gold would have finished the regular season with a better record had fans been in attendance all season long.
Those same fans are also feeling pretty good about the state of the team. In results that were collected even before their Game 2 win, 82% of Lakers fans said they are confident the team is headed in the right direction. That’s down from 94% last week, but up from 65% two weeks ago. It’s probably even higher now, and will go up even more if the Lakers get a couple more wins now that they’re at home in front of their fans.
The Lakers also might be playing in the best series so far, according to NBA fans as a whole. 30% of fans around the country believe that the Lakers vs. Suns series is the best of the group, with the New York Knicks’ series against the Atlanta Hawks as the next most popular choice, with 21% of the vote.
Still, those results may not be due to the Lakers’ presence in the series. A survey-high 26% of NBA fans believe the Suns best display the characteristics of a successful team. Only four percent picked the Lakers.
We’ll see if the Lakers can change the rest of the league’s mind as the first-round continues, but clearly the Underdog Lakers are back.
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