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.
Lamar Odom, playing focused yet loose, had 12 points on 5-11 and led the game with 18 rebounds. Odom did a little bit of everything tonight – driving to the hoop and then dishing to Gasol for a dunk; pulling a defensive rebound and going coast to signature coast for an easy one-handed lay up; holding the ball for the last few seconds of the first half and then attacking the basket for another lay-up. Odom has picked up in the pre-season where he left off at the World Championships – in fine-form, game shape.
The game, physical at the on-set, was tightly officiated, with two NBA officials and one FIBA referee blowing their whistles for a total of 56 fouls combined, resulting in 65 free throw attempts.
The Lakers had their largest lead at 60-49, but a dry spell allowed an FC Barca run, and in the end, the real home team got the win by four points. Ball movement was a distinctive stat that gave FC Barcelona a victory against the defending NBA champions. The Lakers assisted on only 14 of 29 field goals made, while FC Barca handed out 23 assists on 29 field goals. With a slew of new players still learning the system, ball movement is surely an item for the Lakers’ next day at the gym. For now, they leave Europe 0-2, but are certainly ready to continue preparing for the real season.
Pre-Game Thoughts: Just a guess, but Pau will probably have a good game tonight.
Half-Time Thoughts: 44-45, FC Barcelona – It’s been a nice, competitive game between two champions. Both teams, however, are shooting below 40%
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Lakers’ 3-point shooting, 0-14. Abysmal.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol – back in his hometown, playing for his former team, in front of thousands of friends, family and fans, he did not disappoint, finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and a block.