Barcelona, the defending champions of EuroLeague, just knocked off the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers Thursday.
Europe’s best beat the NBA’s best 92-88. They did it on a night the Lakers starters got some real run — Lamar Odom played 41 minutes, Pau Gasol 36 and Kobe Bryant 25. Barcelona did it by holding the Lakers to 34 percent shooting and LA was 0-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Of course, this is just the second preseason game for the Lakers, while Barcelona has already started its league season. The Lakers rested Kobe and others for key stretches. This was not the Lakers the Celtics faced last June. There are a lot of reasons — or excuses, if you prefer — that the Lakers lost.
But it raises the question: Could Barcelona hang in the NBA?
Phil Jackson isn’t sold, as quoted at NBA.com.
“They played really well, but they’re not up to the competition that we face night in and night out,” Jackson said. “But that’s not taking anything away from them. The physicality of our game, the size of our players, those are things that night in and night out are very difficult to contest.”
Kobe on the other hand thinks Barcelona could hang — and as you read this you can almost hear Kobe rolling his eyes.
“I don’t know why he says these things sometimes,” Bryant said. “”I think they execute extremely well, they know each other extremely well, they move the ball extremely well and that’s what you’re looking for. In the NBA, teams that do that are few and far in between, teams that play together as a unit. You see a lot of isolation game; you see a lot of guys going one-on-one. They do a great job moving the ball, they do a great job helping each other defensively, so I disagree, but, what do I know?”
Barcelona plays with motion that maybe only Utah matches in the NBA. And they have some talented guys — Juan Carlos Navarro looked pretty good, much better than the heralded Ricky Rubio who was 0-5 from the field and had just three assists in 18 minutes.
But they feel like a collection of good NBA role players. Over the course of the season you need your stars to win games in the NBA. Come the playoffs those guys who can lift their game matter more.
Barcelona would not embarrass itself in the NBA, but it would be a team fighting for the eighth seed at best. So it can hang, to answer our headline question. But if there were a true World Championships series, the NBA would win. Handily.