LeBron James celebrates with Los Angeles teammate Quinn Cook and others after the Lakers' championship-clinching 106-93 victory over the Miami Heat in game six of the NBA Finals (AFP)
Los Angeles fans took advantage of relaxed rules on attending sporting events on Thursday with a limited number of spectators allowed into Staples Center for the first time in over a year to watch the Boston Celtics beat their Lakers 121-113.
Thursday night was the first time that NBA fans were allowed to watch a game in person at Staples Center since March 10, 2020, when the Lakers lost 104-102 to the Brooklyn Nets.
Health officials in Los Angeles County recently relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, clearing the way for about 2,000 people to pass through the turnstiles.
The first of the lucky few that managed to snag tickets began arriving outside the arena in downtown Los Angeles a couple of hours prior to tipoff.
That included season ticket holder Timothy Ferguson who says he was tired of watching games on TV.
"There’s nothing like live. I mean we watch it on our wide-screen at home but there’s nothing like live,” Ferguson said.
Denise Fernandez liked the idea of watching a game unobstructed and being able to stretch out in her seat.
"I was telling her to come," said Fernandez who convinced a friend to come along. "No one will be standing in front of her, she won’t have a problem seeing. I think it’s cool no one will be around us."
Some fans also filled up the outdoor patios at nearby restaurants and bars across the street from Staples.
Scalpers were selling tickets for $300 each.
Even though it didn't show on the scoreboard, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said they got a boost from the cheering section.
"When you get energy like you get tonight it feels good," Vogel said. "Hopefully we will be at capacity at some point."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hopes to eventually get the number of fans up by having fans show a "vaccine passport".
Los Angeles County has had one of the worst outbreaks of Covid-19 in America with over 23,000 deaths and 1.23 million cases and counting.
- No bags -
Those in attendance on Thursday had to prove they had been vaccinated or show proof of a negative coronavirus test 72 hours prior. They were also not allowed to carry any bags, including purses, into the stadium.
Fans had to wear face coverings, maintain six feet of distance from each other and use cashless cards and apps to purchase food and drink.
Unfortunately, the 1,915 fans didn't have much to cheer about as Boston rolled to a one-sided victory.
Boston's Jaylen Brown finished with 40 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Celtics who roared out to a 14-2 lead in the first quarter.
Boston stretched their lead to 27 points at one stage of the fourth quarter. The only run for Los Angeles came during a stretch late in the game when the Lakers made some headway against Boston's reserves who ultimately made sure the Celtics never trailed in the game.
"It was not an ideal finish," said Brown. "We played good in spurts. But a win is a win. We wanted to go back home feeling good about ourselves and now we do. "
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