Five things to take away from Lakers' 111-92 preseason loss to Minnesota
1. It's a preseason game. The result doesn't matter.But the Lakers didn't play pretty, either, in their 111-92 exhibition loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They looked like they weren't even trying in the second half. They went 18 for 33 from the free-throw line. They collected 22 turnovers and 33 fouls. Their defense was suspect. But that's why they call them exhibition games.
There's no need to look into the aforementioned statistics too much. Championship teams tend to pace themselves during such contests, while teams looking to improve hope the preseason serves as a barometer for the season. Still, the Lakers will need to have a stronger showing than that this month. Even in a game that was far from pretty, though, there were a few notes of interest (below the jump).
2. Kobe Bryant at least didn't get hurt.The crowd soon went from cheers to boos. The sellout crowd at O2 Arena understandably wanted to see Bryant play. The Lakers understandably didn't want to see Bryant get hurt. So Phil Jackson stuck to his pledge in playing him limited minutes -- six to be exact -- so Bryant could say he made an appearance, and then quickly yanking him out before anything bad could happen.
His stat line isn't something you'll ever see in an important game -- 0 for 3 with one rebound and two assists. Still, I was curious how Bryant would look physically, whether he seemed in rhythm or if the knee should be a cause for concern. Though Bryant told The Times' Mike Bresnahan his knee is at 60%, you have to keep in mind how that compared to the 2010 postseason. He told Bresnahan: "During the NBA Finals, it was extremely, extremely, extremely painful. Now, not so much." His missed shots -- a pull-up jumper off an inbounds pass, a contested three-pointer from the top of the key and a step-back three-pointer on the far side -- didn't seem to point to anything involving his right index finger. So that's good news. Let Bryant rest and recover for when the games count.
Even if Bryant couldn't put on a show for the Brits, Shannon Brown demonstrated why Lakers fans love his athleticism. He constantly attacked the rim and showcased a decent mid-range game, resulting in 13 points on six-for-10 shooting.
3. Lamar Odom looks like he's in midseason form. In a game that featured most of the Lakers going through the motions, Odom played as if it were an important regular-season game. His team-leading 17 points on six-for-10 shooting, six rebounds and three steals reflect the intensity and hunger he's displayed all through training camp. Sure, his performance at the free-throw line (five for 11), his shooting from three-point range (0 for 3) and his ball handling (three turnovers) could've been better. But it's obvious that his experience with Team USA in the 2010 FIBA World Championship has helped him take stronger command of a game.
Odom's effort against Minnesota served as the blueprint for what he'll need to do in the next few months, with Andrew Bynum's expectation that he won't be back until December, to give Pau Gasol support and to give Derrick Caracter and Theo Ratliff enough luxury to fully acclimate themselves. The Lakers' first exhibition game will be quickly forgotten (if it hasn't been already), but Odom laid the groundwork on a night Gasol picked up three early fouls and finished with a disappointing performance of seven points, five fouls and four turnovers, while Bynum and Luke Walton were absent.
On the opening play, Bryant deflected a ball and found Odom, who then slammed it home on a fastbreak. He sank a corner jumper with ease. He went to his right against Kevin Love and drew a foul. He had a put-back over Darko Milicic. Odom's two change-of-pace dribbles past Love resulted in an up-and-under layup. L.O's high step over Michael Beasley led to a behind-the-back pass to Derek Fisher, though his three-point attempt was blocked
4. The newcomers look promising. The stats from the bench are less important than how they functioned as a group. But for those wondering how the new guys did, here's a quick recap. Matt Barnes (nine points on four-for-eight shooting, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block), Steve Blake (five points on two-for-five shooting, four assists), Ratliff (four points, four rebounds), Devin Ebanks (five points) and Caracter (two points on one-for-eight shooting and nine rebounds).
Blake showed his understanding of the triangle and his chemistry with teammates weren't just confined to practice settings. He had a nice bounce pass to L.O. on a baseline drive. Blake showcased a nifty behind-the-back pass to Barnes, who then found Ratliff inside. Both Blake and Barnes showed incredible understanding with knowing how to properly space themselves in the context of the offense. And Barnes seemed to relish chipping in any way he could, whether from scoring or helping out on hustle plays.
Caracter didn't provide much of an offensive post presence (his shooting line shows that), but he seemed almost unstoppable in cleaning the glass. He and Ratliff showed great chemistry in chipping off the boards. The question mark for Caracter entails whether he'll be a viable offensive option, particularly during Bynum's absence. But there's no doubt he'll serve a great purpose in giving the Lakers second-chance points during whatever moments he can garner during the regular season.
You have to credit Ebanks for his hustle, a quality that he's mastered nonstop during training camp. But he entered the game during the second quarter looking very tight. On his first two plays, he missed a catch-and-shoot and then was called for traveling. One of his two field goals included a bank shot that frankly featured horrible form. Ebanks can distinguish himself on the defensive end, which will help him gain more trust as time goes on from the coaching staff. His offensive game can develop in due time.
5. No Live TV? I'm not ignorant to the fact that companies have to maximize their bottom line, particularly in a tough economy. I know it's just an exhibition game. And I'm not saying this to knock anything NBA TV and KCAL-9 do, because they put together quality work for their respective NBA and Lakers telecasts. But to have NBA TV blacked out in the local market during the live noon PDT telecast and then have KCAL-9 run the game on tape delay at 7 p.m. seems incredibly short sighted, particularly since we're in the information age, and the decision ultimately alienates Laker fans. It's not exactly a good thing to be a trending topic on Twitter over something like this.
Stat of the game: The final score. Enjoy it, Minnesota. The Timberwolves will never experience that margin of victory against the Lakers during the upcoming season.
Quote of the game: "Minnesota looked great. We looked like we just got off vacation." -- Jackson
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant makes a pass after running into the defense of Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley in the first quarter of their exhibition game on Monday at London's O2 Arena. Credit: Dylan Martinez/Reuters