The crowd rose to its feet. The decibel level shook the ground as if another Earthquake rumbled through Los Angeles. And then the claps and the cheers continued.
In normal circumstances, the elation and the ensuing confetti that drops from the Staples Center ceiling coincides with another key Lakers’ victory or even an NBA championships. But this is not one of those seasons with the Lakers destined to miss the playoffs for only the fifth time in franchise history. So amid a depressing season, the non-sellout crowd of 18,355 fans at Staples Center clung onto something less significant.
A rare Lakers’ 125-99 win Sunday over the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center and the relative comfort that overpriced tickets to the game were offset with free tacos at Jack in the Box.
Ryan Kelly proved the catalyst in ensuring Laker fans would walk out of the arena with a coupon in their hands. Kelly jumped across the lane to block Dionte Christmas’ three-foot layup attempt with eight seconds remaining, capping a 90 second sequence in which the Suns went scoreless.
“I heard the chants going, so I knew I had to give the fans tacos,” Kelly said. “There haven’t been a lot of times this year where we held teams for under 100. So when you have that opportunity, you got to get it.”
Kelly’s block wasn’t the only signature play that the Lakers rookie provided. His 17-point effort on 6 of 12 shooting featured a sequences few thought imaginable when the Lakers drafted the former Duke standout with the 48th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. Kelly threw down a two-handed dunk that drew a three-point play. He drove the lane for a one-handed slam that didn’t materialize because of a charging call. In between his bread-and-butter mid-range jumpers, Kelly also converted on a hook shot.
“I’m trying to mix it up,” Kelly said. “For us the ball was moving pretty well tonight. You get some different opportunities. If the ball is sticking, you don’t. I’ve been trying to be more than just a spot up shooter. At times it’s necessary and you can cut behind guys. I’m trying to be a good player.”
And within that pursuit, Kelly provided the Laker fans a crunchy treat.