The Lakers wore their home gold jerseys, and the rules of the game were referred to as “hybrid” for its combination of NBA and FIBA rules and regulations, but there was no mistaking who the home team was. At the Palau Sant Jordi arena in Barcelona, Spain, the defending NBA Champions were faced with a formidable opponent in FC Barcelona, but as fortune would have it, on their side was one of the city’s most beloved natives – Pau Gasol.
From winning the opening tip to a late-game baseline drive into a reverse dunk, Gasol did not disappoint the arena that was surely filled with his family and friends, not to mention a hoard of loyal fans. Gasol was his usual productive self, collecting 25 points and 10 rebounds. It took him 21 attempts and 11 free throws to get there, but both teams suffered through periodic offensive droughts, neither reaching even 40% of their field goals. Gasol got going early in the game, but the opposing team was ready to swarm their fellow Spaniard with their own big men and starting center, Fran Vazquez got the bulk of the assignment. Gasol, however, still managed a double-double.
Kobe Bryant, having only played for nine minutes in Monday’s game against Minnesota, appeared in good spirits, whether he was fouling an opposing player, missing and then eventually making his shots, sitting on the bench or playfully reacting to a foul. This short visit to Europe must be like a homecoming for Bryant, having spent so much of his childhood in Italy. Though he said that he does not feel any pain in his newly-repaired knee, he claims that it remains at 60% and it showed. His first made field goal did not come until the 6:43 mark in the third quarter when FC Barca’s Terrence Morris bit on Bryant’s signature head fake and the shot went in and one. He finished with 15 points on 2-15 shooting, not have a stellar offensive game by his standards, but Bryant found other ways to contribute. He played defense, deflecting/intercepting passes – one leading to an easy dunk for Gasol and another that led to a fast break by Ron Artest. He also contributed to three if not all 4 of Juan Carlos Navarro’s personal fouls.