Throughout the Washington Wizards’ home winning streak, Bradley Beal has gushed over the Verizon Center fans. Even though the arena has not sold out since the streak began in early December, Beal has found ways to link the team’s success to the support at home.
But Thursday night, as the Wizards downed the Los Angeles Lakers for their 16th straight home win, securing the second-longest streak in franchise history, Beal felt the home cooking was spoiled by the presence of Lakers fans.
When asked if John Wall’s fourth-quarter takeover (16 points, including eight straight) was spurred by opposing fans who loudly cheered on their Lakers, Beal did not hold back.
“I’m sick of that, too,” Beal said. “That’s terrible. I feel like we were on the road today.”
Last year, the Lakers arrived in Washington for their first road trip after Kobe Bryant announced his retirement. Naturally, a sea of purple and gold filled Verizon Center. Now, even with no Kobe and a young Los Angeles team riding an 11-game road losing streak, scores of Lakers loyalists made up a large portion of the announced crowd of 16,473.
Meanwhile, the Wizards (29-20) have won 13 of their past 15 games overall and own the best record in the Eastern Conference since Jan. 1. Yet the Wizards average one of the lowest attendances in the league (15,657) and have had a less than enthusiastic response from the home crowd during their rise. Still, after this latest win, Wall repeated a similar line he has used throughout the streak.
“We couldn’t do it without our fans, they’ve been amazing for us,” Wall said. “We’re coming out and understanding that if you want to be a playoff team, you want to go far, you’ve got to take home court and that’s something we’re doing.”
Wall admitted he wasn’t pleased with the presence of Lakers fans — “No, I wasn’t” — but understood why the franchise still attracts so many fans.
“Our fans were still here, you heard some boos when they were doing that,” Wall said. “But you know, the Lakers are a big-time organization that have won a lot of championships. They have a fan base kind of like the Celtics. They have one of those fan bases, one of those legendary teams, so we understand it. We dealt with it before when Kobe was playing but I’m glad that we have a winning streak here. Our fans have been amazing and they cheer for us when they needed us the most.”