Timberwolves 111, Lakers 92
The British crowd came to see Kobe Bryant and his champion teammates. What they got was Michael Beasley and a surprise showing from the new-look Minnesota Timberwolves.
Beasley scored 21 points - including eight straight to help break open the game at the start of the second half - and Minnesota beat the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers 111-92 on Monday night in their preseason opener played a long way from home.
Bryant only put in a brief appearance for Los Angeles, going scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting 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.
''We had plans to play Kobe in two segments, but one was enough,'' Jackson said. ''He iced down at halftime. I probably should have told the PA announcer so he could tell the crowd.''
Bryant has only completed two full practices since training camp began, and said he likely wouldn't have played at all if the game had been back home.
''I had a sense of responsibility to get out there and play for a little bit,'' Bryant said, adding that the chants from the crowd tempted him to play more. ''I wanted to get up and get in. But my shoes were already unlaced, and I had ice on my knees.''
Instead, it was Beasley and fellow newcomers Martell Webster and Anthony Tolliver who put on a show, helping the Timberwolves use a 32-13 third-quarter run to take control of the game.
Webster finished with 24 points and Tolliver added 10.
Not a bad start for a team that is returning just five players from the roster that won only 15 games last season.
''I think we surprised everybody tonight,'' Beasley said. ''I don't think anybody thought we would win. It shows our work ethic and our character. That's what we're here to show this year.''
Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 17 points, including 13 in a tight first half which finished with the Lakers leading 56-55.
But Beasley, who joined the Timberwolves after the Miami Heat acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh, made sure there would be little drama in the second half.
He drained a long jumper on Minnesota's first possession, then added a 3-pointer, before driving the length of the court for a three-point play. He finished 8 of 10 from the field in a little more than 18 minutes, and was rested for the entire fourth quarter.
''You can see Beasley is a very talented player,'' Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. ''He's got a lot of enthusiasm and passion. He freelanced a little bit too much for me, but that's the way he is. He can create his own shots. I expect him to be a major contributor for us this year.''
Jackson had said before the game that Bryant would start but wasn't likely to play more than eight minutes. He came out of the game after the first timeout, having produced little on the court.
He did take part in the first highlight of the night, however, stealing a pass from Beasley and feeding Odom on the fast break for a one-handed dunk that was the game's first points.
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 consecutive 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.
''Minnesota looked great. We looked like we just got off vacation,'' Jackson said.
Rambis said it was clear the game meant more to his team than the Lakers.
''Any win is a good win, but I see the reality of it,'' Rambis said. ''Kobe only played a little bit. They don't have the mindset to come out and win games. We're a young team trying to win every time.''
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, a homecoming for Gasol. Bryant said he expects to play about the same amount in that game.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson contributed to this report.