Purple and gold jerseys were nearly as omnipresent at London’s sold out O2 Arena as they are in STAPLES Center during the NBA’s opening preseason game in the United Kingdom, but the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Lakers 111-92 on Monday evening.
Kobe Bryant (knee) played for only the first six minutes of the contest and Pau Gasol 20 as Phil Jackson gave considerable playing time to his bench. The Wolves played well throughout, showing their youthful exuberance in sprinting out to a big third quarter lead after the Lakers held a one-point lead at halftime.
“I thought our guys did a really good job in the effort department,” said Wolves coach Kurt Rambis. “I see the reality of it too. Kobe played a little under six minutes. I coached under Phil. He’s looking at a time sheet and giving players as much playing time as possible. They don’t have the mindset to come out and win games. We’re a young team, we want to try and win with every opportunity we’re on the floor.”
While Bryant said he’s at 60 percent and probably wouldn’t have played at all save for feeling a “responsibility to the fans,” Lamar Odom shined for the Lakers in the loss. His experience in the World Championships showed itself, as he led the way with 17 points, six boards and three steals in 26 minutes.
“Lamar looked great,” said Phil Jackson, using the phrase “mid-season form” to describe his play.
Shannon Brown added 13 points and Matt Barnes nine off the bench, while Steve Blake ran the triangle offense very well in his first minutes, leading L.A. with four assists in 20 minutes.
The Wolves shot the ball well throughout the game (54 percent) as L.A.’s defense predictably wasn’t where it will be in the regular season, getting 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting from Michael Beasley and 24 points off the bench from Martell Webster on 8-of-13 field goals.
If you missed any part of the game, take a look at our running diary of the action:
9:29 Everything was going in for the Lakers early, with each player not named Kobe Bryant making a shot towards a 9-9 tie. Bryant (knee), as expected, was easing his way into the contest, missing his first two shots.
6:27 Who looked great early? Lamar Odom, fresh off the World Championships, showed the benefit of being in basketball shape as he scored seven of L.A.’s first 14 points to put the Lakers up 14-13.
4:45 Didn’t take long for Shannon Brown to wow another continent with a major slam, which he did on his first offensive touch, exploding off the baseline.
3:00 Not a bad first offensive touch for Steve Blake, either, as the team’s new backup point guard caught Artest’s pass on the wing and buried a three to tie the game at 25.
2:05 Our first look at Matt Barnes and Derrick Caracter, playing alongside fellow newcomer Theo Ratliff (in for Gasol, with three PF’s), saw Caracter and Ratliff immediately climb the offensive glass. Caracter was consistently excellent on the glass throughout the first week in camp, and we saw why immediately.
0:00 The Lakers won the title with defense last season, but preseason game No. 1 isn’t all about hard-nosed defending (well, at least for everyone other than Artest, he can’t help it). The early result was a 27-all tie after one.
11:00 It didn’t look like Blake’s first game in Purple and Gold … he was almost immediately controlling the flow of L.A.’s triangle, and even pulled Caracter aside to explain where to be.
8:39 Blake sunk his second jumper in as many attempts, then fed Brown for his second straight perimeter J; in other Shannon Brown news, he looks very confident and comfortable on the floor, much like he did last season in the February stretch of games missed by Kobe Bryant.
7:32 The first made jumper for Barnes, coming off a nice drive and dish from newly-checked-in Sasha Vujacic, gave the Lakers a 40-34 lead, as the second unit continued to play quite well (“quite” is among the most common words used in England, incidentally).
3:56 Former Lakers assistant and current Wolves Head Coach Kurt Rambis had his starters in, while Phil Jackson featured Trey Johnson and Drew Naymick, both training camp signees, alongside newly-entered rookie Devin Ebanks, Vujacic and Odom. The Wolves took advantage in taking a three-point lead before two Odom free throws gave him 11 points to lead all scorers. Meanwhile, Caracter’s effort continued to be there, but his matchup with 7-foot plus Darko Milicic wasn’t a good one at either end.
0:00 Bryant didn’t play a single minute in the second quarter, which was his and Phil Jackson’s plan. Vujacic, meanwhile, hit a three and a driving layup to keep the Lakers on top by a point at halftime. The Lakers shot 48.9 percent to Minnesota’s 56.8 percent, but grabbed 10 offensive boards to create seven more field goal attempts.
10:30 Beasley’s shot looks good for Minny (18 pts), his 3 putting Wolves up 60-56, though Odom did make him fall on a crossover (#anklebreak) before high-stepping and throwing a behind-the-back pass to Fisher. That was fun.
7:00 Wolves showing off youthful exuberance to start the 3rd, L.A. easing into things, resulting in a 69-58 Minny lead after 9-2 run. In other words, the Lakers were treating things like, well, the first preseason game. A bit sloppy on offense, a bit lackadaisical on defense.
2:59 The Wolves have barely missed in the 3rd, outscoring L.A. by 17 through nine minutes to take an 82-67 lead on Martell Webster’s 3, while the Lakers were ineffective particularly from the free throw line.
0:23.0 L.A.’s first productive offensive play in a while resulted in a corner three from looking-more-comfortable Barnes, who then nailed a deep two for a mini 5-0 personal run that cut Minny’s lead from 18 to 13 heading into the final quarter.
10:00 Barnes brought some tenacity on D, fouling Webster (9 pts in 3rd) 30 ft from rim. He took Web scoring on someone else personally, then stripped him a minute later on a play leading to Brown’s layup, cutting the Wolves’ lead to 14.
5:53 The Wolves held a 96-80 lead behind continued hot shooting, with Phil Jackson again going to his third team. After the second Laker Girl dance during a time out, the crowd brought out “Kobe, Kobe!” chant number three, producing a wave from No. 24.
5:31 Gasol, checking back in for crowd-pleasing purposes (Phil Jackson must have figured that was the next best thing to Kobe), did so right away with a nasty reverse slam on the baseline.
0:00 The game ended with the Wolves claiming a 111-92 victory behind 54.1 percent shooting from the field and 8-of-12 shooting from three-point range.
We’ll be back tomorrow from Barcelona.