1st Quarter: Ibaka and Batum are making an impact early.
Playing through fake crowd noise that sounds, to this expert, like static, the Clippers have run out to a 16-5 lead. Perhaps the Lakers are still recovering from the ring ceremony. Or maybe the Clippers are revealing the importance of two of their key off-season acquisitions: Serge Ibaka and Nicolas Batum, who have combined for 11 points.
The Lakers got more attention for their eventful off-season — Dennis Schröder, who was in the running for sixth man of the year with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, was in the Lakers’ starting lineup — but Ibaka and Batum are both long, wily veterans who can hit 3-pointers and space the floor, no small asset in the N.B.A.
The Lakers get their championship rings.
Before the Lakers took the court for their spectator-free championship ring ceremony, Coach Frank Vogel reflected on just how “surreal” the team’s title run still felt to him.
“I don’t really know if it ever really hits you,” he told reporters before the game. “It’s what you dream about. It’s what you work for your whole career. I’m just happy for my family, who made so many sacrifices to allow me to have these opportunities. Grateful to the league for letting us finish the season and creating the bubble environment.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic and the massive shutdowns it caused, Vogel said he had only sporadically been able to get a sense of what the championship meant to fans in Southern California. But whenever he goes grocery shopping or stops by Target, someone will thank him for what the team was able to do, he said.
The ring ceremony itself, even without fans in the arena, was surprisingly emotional. In recorded video presentations, the players’ families congratulated them, one by one, before they went to collect their rings. There was even a cameo from the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose younger brother, Kostas, spent last season on a two-way contract with the Lakers.
And in a nice touch, frontline medical workers presented the rings to the team’s assistant coaches.