Highlights | Gasol’s Reverse Jam | Bryant to Gasol
Prior to a festive preseason matchup between the Lakers and F.C. Barcelona at the Palau St. Jordi on Thursday evening, Euroleague Basketball CEO Jordi Bartomeu tried to put the event in perspective while at a press conference seated alongside NBA Commissioner David Stern.
“The score doesn’t matter,” Bartomeu said. “Games like this exist so we can please the fans.”
“Pleased” is certainly a fair way to describe a joyous group of basketball-crazy Catalans, particularly since their team ended up gutting out a 92-88 victory over the Lakers. The Euroleague champions battled an L.A. team that intermittently played well and poorly, before ultimately preserving a small lead late in the fourth quarter. A voracious group of fans displayed full support for F.C. Barcelona throughout, but also showered native son Pau Gasol with genuine love.
“Great sensation, great feeling, it’s really nice to be here,” said Gasol, transparently touched by the moment. “There was a terrific atmosphere. Barcelona has a great team, they showed it out there on the court today.”
While the Lakers would have liked to have won despite how early in the preseason it is, Gasol identified a greater meaning.
“The important thing was that it was a terrific atmosphere for the fans,” he explained. “I remember how motivated (these types of games) made me when I was young, and it’s (just as motivating) for the people here to see.”
Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual was very pleased to win, but said he recognized that the Lakers weren’t playing “at their usual level.” He was even more thrilled to host a significant event for the people in the city, and to welcome Gasol back to Barcelona.
“For us to have Pau here is just marvelous,” he said “Everyone loves him here both in the city and the country. From our point of view he’s just the best inside player there is in the NBA right now. It’s fantastic to have him.”
Gasol wasn’t the only Laker that got plenty of love from the fans, as Kobe Bryant spent nearly 25 minutes on the floor. Still recovering from offseason knee surgery, Bryant had played only six minutes in L.A.’s Monday loss in London, but clearly felt better on Thursday. Phil Jackson even obliged his Finals MVP’s wish to go back into the game during crunch time, despite the fact that Bryant missed all but two of his 15 shots.
““He’s not ready to play,” said Jackson. “He’s going out there to help the good will (of the NBA) and to show the fans his presence on the floor and support his teammates.”
Bryant did manage to sink 11 of 12 free throws, and even had a chance to tie the game in the final minute with a deep three, but it rimmed out … like all 13 other Lakers attempts from distance.
F.C. Barcelona, meanwhile, sank 12 triples, including three in the final quarter, while the Lakers missed all seven of their efforts in the fourth quarter.
Bryant finished with 15 points, while Gasol led the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds, eight fewer than teammate Lamar Odom. Juan Carlos Navarro scored 25 points for the victors, while little-known former second round pick of the New York Knicks Pete Mickeal just missed a triple-double with 26 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
If you missed any of the action, take a look at our in-game running diary, most of the content coming from our @LakersReporter Twitter handle:
11:45 Pau Gasol opens the game with a swished baseline jumper. How could he not have a little extra pep in his step? The conquering-hero-returning-home pregame ovation afforded him appeared to move him a bit, and he shared his appreciation over the loudspeakers.
11:00 A Barca player tried to tip Artest’s layup of offensive rim, which isn’t allowed in NBA; today we’re using NBA rules. Moments later, Pete Mickael, Barca’s starting SF, got right in Artest’s face & ultimately drew a tech; Artest obviously didn’t back away.
10:00 Kobe just attacked the hole through traffic here, which he didn’t attempt in London. #progress
8:09 It’s been a choppy first few minutes here, with Barca already committing 5 fouls & L.A. 4; Lakers lead 12-6, Gasol has 8.
3:00Kobe had 3 pts, 2 asts & 2 rebs in 8 minutes, missing his 4 FG’s but making 3 FT’s. The good news for Bryant & L.A. was that he moved quite well throughout, showing considerably more activity than he had in London. Gasol, meanwhile, was dominating the paint to the tune of 13 points with two boards.
0:24.0 Nice lil’ pick & pop action w/Steve Blake & Gasol, Blake using the pick to nail a pull-up, then stripping ball on D. Blake followed up his effort by hitting another pull-up J on the next possession, sending the Lakers out of the first quarter with a 24-21 lead. Juan Carlos Navarro led Barcelona with nine points.
8:35 A layup from Kosta Perovic, Barca’s effective, Serbian big man, gave the home squad its first lead since early in the contest; Jackson had turned exclusively to his bench with Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, Blake, Theo Ratliff and Derrick Caracter. Moments later, Vujacic’s Slovenian countryman Jaka Lakovic’s fastbreak layup put F.C. up four.
5:00 In the regular season, Jackson almost always leaves at least one of the Bryant-Gasol-Odom trio on the floor (and Bynum when healthy). We saw why as Odom sparked an immediate 5-0 run after checking in to put the Lakers up a point in a stint highlighted by his patented coast-to-coast, gliding left handed layup.
3:14 Devin Ebanks had a pretty and-1 in London, and added Spain to his list of and-1 countries before missing FT. The second round pick did grab his own miss, however, drawing a foul before hitting both to put L.A. up 37-36.
0:56 Gasol’s tip-in of a close Ebanks miss got him up to 16 points with five boards, but back-to-back Barca triples gave F.C. a 45-42 lead before Odom’s slick driving layup cut the lead to one at the half.
9:55 The level of vitriol the fans here shower on the refs after a call they don’t like is pretty intense/fun. A cacophony of jeers and whistles resulted after Kobe up-faked Navarro, who was straight up on a missed J, but got whistled. Either way, Kobe made all three free throws to put L.A. up by six, piggy-backing on an Artest dunk and Odom layup that produced a 9-2 run to open the third.
7:30 Pete Mickael was just welcomed into the “I-got-up-faked-by-Kobe” (IGUFBK) club. And-1 puts L.A. up 58-49, Kobe w/10 pts. A simple explanation why L.A. has been scoring at ease in the third? They’ve picked up the D, reaping benefits @ other end.
5:25 Remember Pete Mickael going at Artest in the 1st? He’s moved on to Kobe now, plus some trash talk. Bryant gave him the old “Are you even serious right now?” look. Mickael, to his credit, is playing very well.
1:55 Gasol has gone cold from the field, missing seven straight shots as Barca cuts L.A.’s lead all the way down to one (64-63). That all changed in the final second, however, as Gasol’s impressive baseline reverse jam through traffic, plus the foul, put L.A. up 70-68 after three.
9:05 Odom’s near-miss on a driving layup typified the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, in which the teams managed only two total points. The offensive execution wasn’t bad, but the finishing sure looked preseason-esque.
5:41 F.C. held a 76-74 lead into a timeout, thanks in part to Mickael, who had mixed it up with Artest & Kobe. An American, he was drafted by the Knicks after two years in Cincinnati before getting hurt and falling out of the NBA before playing in Greece, Russia, South Korea & now Spain. Apparently pumping himself up has worked, since he’s near a triple-double tonight with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
5:00 Kobe’s back in. Still another good sign towards that knee. He, Lakers wouldn’t allow him to return if he weren’t feeling good. Moments later, it was a bit anticlimactic as the crowd rose to watch Kobe isolated on the wing, but a 24-sec. violation occurred. Artest managed an isolation hoop, but Mickael countered with a three pointer to put Barca up 84-78 with 2:41 remaining.
0:25.0Kobe couldn’t get a potential game-tying 3 to fall, & Artest missed one as well, the Lakers then forced to put Barca at the free throw line. The home team rode the game out by hitting all of their foul shots, despite a few more attempts from Bryant at the other end.
Final score: 92-88 Barcelona.