Los Angeles Lakers jerseys and t-shirts dominated the night in Beijing, China, Tuesday.
At the bootleg sales stands outside the MasterCard Center, the “stores” tended to ignore that the Golden State Warriors had even made the trip. However, that was not the case inside the arena.
The fans inside were far more balanced and proved they were a knowledgeable bunch: Stephen Curry duly drew the loudest cheers for the Warriors. Likewise, Pau Gasol was showered with the loudest applause for the Lakers’ starters.
China’s biggest sports star in more ways than one, Yao Ming, took part in a pregame press conference along with NBA Commissioner David Stern and future NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to discuss the NBA’s growing partnership with China and the former Houston Rocket.
Before the game, Yao even stood on center court to a roaring round of applause.
As grand as the pregame festivities may have been, this was another preseason game for the Lakers and a chance to work on building chemistry. Fresh off good news that Kobe Bryant was improving at an accelerated rate, the Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman partnership progressed on Tuesday night in Beijing.
Both Kaman and Gasol were active early in the game, and Gasol even attempted a 3-pointer during the first quarter. He missed, but Gasol appeared comfortable starting and playing alongside Kaman.
Kaman was perfect from the field in the first half, and Gasol led the Lakers with 14 points in the first 24 minutes. The duo also combined for 11 rebounds, but David Lee’s 22 points on 9-11 shooting kept Golden State in the game at the intermission.
“So far, it’s been great because we’re both very communicative,” Gasol said after the game about his partnership with Kaman.
“We have to still work on communicating and doing a better job on both ends of the floor, so we limit the mistakes and misunderstandings,” the Spaniard added.
Several times throughout the contest, the crowd erupted into chants of “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe.” Anytime the crowd seemed to be disinterested, Bryant would flash on the big screen.
Without fail, the volume of the crowd would rev up. In the second half, free throws regularly featured a quick shot of Bryant smiling in a suit minus a tie with his top button undone.
The crowd went crazy every time.
“We love you Kobe,” a group of girls repeated in unison several times.
Bryant was relaxed, and the Lakers were coasting with an 11 point lead after three quarters. For the Lakers, the game ended after three quarters.
That lead evaporated, but that was due to Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni opting to sit his starters for the entire fourth quarter. The coach appeared content to see what was sitting on the end of his bench rather than win a meaningless preseason game.
“We’re still assessing our roster,” D’Antoni explained after the game. “There’s still a couple guys I want to look at and make sure if they’re going to make the team.”
The coach was also happy with Nick Young calling it his “best game.” Young was one of the starters who sat out the entire fourth quarter, but he still finished with a team-high 18 points and was 3-4 from behind the arc.
The Lakers now head to Shanghai and take part in NBA Fan Appreciation Day on Thursday. On Friday, they face the Warriors at the Mercedes-Benz Arena before heading home to Los Angeles.
Despite the loss, fans should be happy with what they saw. The results on Tuesday night were far more positive than the final 100-95 score of the game.