The play-in game, which has been overwhelmingly successful for the NBA, lives in a sort of purgatory of not quite being a regular season game and not quite being a playoff game. It is a postseason game all the same and, in that regard, it was one long overdue for the Lakers faithful.
Years of tanking and a global pandemic prevented Staples Center or Crypto.com Arena from hosting full-capacity playoff games. While the Lakers hosted playoff games in 2021, it was to crowds well under capacity and much closer to a half-full arena.
Because of all of that, Tuesday was the first full-capacity Lakers postseason game since April 28, 2013. That game is more known for Dwight Howard being ejected than anything else, and it was a series the Lakers were handily swept in.
The last time a full-capacity crowd watched a Lakers postseason win was May 18, 2012 when Kobe Bryant scored 36 points to lead the Lakers to a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who still had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and, most importantly, Derek Fisher.
So, to say Tuesday was a long-time coming for Lakers fans would be an understatement. And they spent the full 48 minutes, no matter how ugly and agonizing they were, treating it like it was long overdue.
This shot from LeBron was the first moment I really felt we could win. S/O everyone who was in the building. Crowd was incredible. Missed these playoff sounds. pic.twitter.com/9X7laP7yaF— Raj C. (@RajChipalu) April 12, 2023
Despite the team falling behind big early on, despite the slow start to the third quarter and despite how ugly everything was in the closing moments, the crowd remained relentless to help the Lakers to a win.
And the players certainly noticed. After the game, Anthony Davis talked about the importance of the fans in attendance...while also mixing in a funny interaction about the newly-named Crypto.com Arena.
“The crowd definitely got us back into it,” Davis said. “With our play, having the crowd behind us, it was fun. This is what you dream about, playing in Crypto — yeah, I know, it’s a new dream — playing in Crypto and just allowing the crowd to do their thing and get the other team rattled and kind of give us a little bit more energy to go on runs and make big plays. It was electric tonight and I can’t wait until we come back home and have our two home games, whenever those two days are, I know it’s going to be even louder.”
Because of the lack of playoff games, the Lakers have been forced to get loud for one-off regular season games that have carried some extra weight. Whether it was Kobe’s final game, LeBron breaking the scoring record or the annual Celtics game, the fans would show up, just not in games that carried big postseason stakes.
“It was great,” Austin Reaves said. “They always show up and make noise but tonight was extra special. It was probably the loudest I’ve seen it since I’ve been here and rightfully so, for a big game, a must-win game.”
Now, there will be no asterisks for a play-in game as the Lakers will be back in the playoffs and, at least, in front of a sold-out crowd. And if Tuesday’s anything to go off of, it’s going to be an incredible atmosphere.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.