ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)— Pau Gasol scored 13 points and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Charlotte Bobcats 88-77 on Thursday night without the ailing Kobe Bryant.
Bryant, the NBA’s reigning MVP, missed the exhibition game because of residual swelling in his hyper-extended right knee following a collision with teammate Josh Powell on Tuesday night against the Bobcats in San Diego.
The crowd of 12,147 at Honda Center let out a collective groan when public address announcer Lawrence Tanter gave them the news following the player introductions.
“I’ve got a little bit of puffiness in the back of the knee. It’s just from the trauma of landing the way I landed,” Bryant said. “So we’ll just knock that out and make sure the swelling’s out of there, which should be soon. Then I’m OK. After seeing the injury on TV, I’m surprised it’s not worse, to be honest.”
Adam Morrison scored 13 points for the Bobcats, who finished the preseason 0-7. The fifth-year team will open the regular season Oct. 30 at Cleveland under Larry Brown, who is coaching his ninth NBA team following the firing of Sam Vincent in April.
Morrison played 18 minutes and was 4-for-8 from the field—a year and three days after he tore a ligament in his left knee while attempted to defend the Lakers’ Luke Walton on a drive to the basket in an exhibition game at Staples Center. The injury kept the third overall pick in the June 2006 draft sidelined for the entire season.
Morrison played in six preseason games, averaging 16.5 minutes and 8.3 points.
The Bobcats took their only lead, 43-42, on a fast-break dunk by Emeka Okafor. The Lakers responded with a 15-0 run capped by Andrew Bynum’s two free throws with 2:36 left in the period, and Jordan Farmar beat the third-quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer that gave Los Angeles a 66-55 advantage.
The Lakers extended the lead to 73-56 on Farmar’s layup with 9:23 to play, and the Bobcats got no closer than the final margin.
Despite Jason Richardson’s 1-for-8 shooting in the first half and Charlotte’s 27.0 field goal percentage, the Lakers led only 36-30 at intermission. The Bobcats, who have shot under 44 percent in every game during the preseason, finished at 32.9 percent. Last season, they shot 45.2 percent as a team and finished 32-50.
Powell also sat out for the Lakers because of a strained left hamstring. Teammate Sasha Vujacic, who has been sidelined throughout training camp because of an avulsion fracture in his left ankle, was examined by a foot specialist Thursday and said he hoped to get some minutes in the preseason finale.
“It feels better,” said Vujacic, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract on July 28. “There’s no sharp pain, but it’s still a little bit irritated. I just have to face it and play with it. Tomorrow I’m going to do the full practice and then we go from there. I’m going to be there and I’m going to be in uniform, which I’m excited about. But if the coach doesn’t play me, that’s not my decision. We’ll see.”
The Lakers will conclude their preseason schedule against Oklahoma City on Friday night in Ontario, Calif., then open the season Tuesday night at home against Portland.
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