Wolves beat Lakers in preseason opener
Kobe Bryant only put in a brief appearance for defending NBA champion Los Angeles, going scoreless in a little more than six minutes of playing time. That wasn't enough to satisfy the crowd at the sold-out O2 Arena, which chanted ''Kobe, Kobe, Kobe'' during the second half. Bryant, who is still recovering from knee surgery in the offseason, answered with polite laughs on the bench, but the pleas had little effect on coach Phil Jackson.
Instead, it was Beasley and fellow newcomers Martell Webster and Anthony Tolliver that put on a show, helping the Timberwolves use a 32-13 third-quarter run to break open the game. Webster led all scorers with 24 points and Tolliver added 10.
Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 17 points, including 13 in a tight first half as the Lakers took a 56-55 lead into the break.
He drained a long jumper on Minnesota's first possession and then added a 3-pointer, before driving the length of the court for a three-point play. He finished 8 of 10 from the floor in a little more than 18 minutes, and was rested for the entire fourth quarter.
Jackson had said before the game that Bryant would start but wasn't likely to play more than eight minutes. He came off after the first time-out, having produced little on the floor. He went 0 for 3 from the field, including two missed 3-pointers.
He did take part in the first highlight of the night, however, stealing a pass from Beasley and feeding Odom on the fastbreak, and Odom finished with a one-handed dunk to make it 2-0.
Los Angeles was clearly the main attraction for the British crowd, with yellow Lakers jerseys vastly outnumbering the Minnesota shirts. However, the fans got to see little of the quality that earned Los Angeles back-to-back titles.
Ron Artest and Pau Gasol were largely anonymous, while Derek Fisher played just 15 minutes. Artest finished with three points, Gasol had seven and Fisher added 12. Center Andrew Bynum missed the game following knee surgery.
When Jackson took off Gasol - the last remaining starter - with 5 minutes left, the decision was met by boos.
While both teams gave their bench players plenty of minutes, there were a few more highlight-reel moments that did awe the crowd.
Starting Minnesota point guard Luke Ridnour - another newcomer for the rebuilding Timberwolves - led a fast break in the third quarter and put the ball up off the backboard for trailing rookie Wesley Johnson to slam home and make 69-58. Pau Gasol was largely anonymous, but drove past Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic in the fourth quarter for a one-handed reverse jam.
Odom brought some laughs when Beasley fell down in front of him as he de drove the ball up the court. Odom had to leap over the forward and continued to run with an exaggerated high-stepping stride as he drove toward the basket, before passing behind his back to Derek Fisher. The guard's shot was blocked into the stands by Darko Milicic.
The NBA's annual European preseason tour continues with Minnesota playing the New York Knicks in Paris on Wednesday and the Lakers taking on Barcelona in Spain on Thursday in a homecoming for Gasol.