Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
Preseason? Forget about it! The Portland Trail Blazers, behind electric rookie Damian Lillard, showed poise, energy, and defense, slicing through the Los Angeles Lakers for a huge Opening Night victory. The 0-2 Lakers were left frustrated all night as the inspired Blazers took an early lead and held off all challenges.
The Blazers were led by... wow, everyone. The team was nearly everything we could hope for on opening night. But all eyes were on Damian Lillard, who lit up the Lakers for a double-double (23 points, 11 assists) in his first NBA game. Nicolas Batum (26 points) and Wesley Matthews (22 points) enjoyed monster games, and LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points) was quietly solid. Sasha Pavlovic deserves a special mention for his 7 points in one minute, destroying a Laker rally.
With the crowd abuzz, the Blazers opened the game looking like a the brand new team they are. Forget Summer League or Preseason, they were ready to play and it showed. Active at both ends, the Blazers caused trouble on defense and took advantage of it at the bucket. Wesley, Nic, LaMarcus and Damian all looked like seasoned pro's, ready to take it to the NBA's New Hotness. The Lakers kept it close through the first quarter thanks to Kobe, Pau and Dwight, but a late Matthews three gave the Blazers a 4 point lead as the horn sounded.
Where in the heck did this team come from? They are playing a completely different game. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise with so many new faces AND a new coach – but that Blazers red is flying!
Second quarter? More of the same. Before the Lakers could get started, Wesley and Damian made it a 9 point lead. From there, Dwight Howard kept them in the game. He was 11-14 from the free throw line, and was the Laker's rock in the middle, just as they've hoped. The Blazer lead slowly dwindled as the quarter progressed, but they wouldn't break. Late in the quarter, bad luck for the Lakers: Nash and Lillard bumped knees, and Nash took the worst of it. He limped to the locker room. From there, the Blazers kept their slim lead. A last-second Batum three send the Blazers to the locker room with a 5 point lead.
There was no denying it: This first half was FUN.
These guys are so much more fun to watch than last year...LOL, and I'm just listening on the radio
Steve Nash returned for the second half. After a few minutes of clear hobbling, the Lakers quickly took him out and replaced him with The Other Steve. Dwight Howard continued to keep the Lakers somewhat close, but the Blazers were in complete control. Back to back dunks by Batum and Matthews pushed the lead to 10, and led to an LA timeout. Giving Dwight some support Kobe and Blake hit three's to bring the Lakers within 2. Then, Sasha Pavlovic walked onto the court. A steal. Scored plus a foul. Missed the free throw, but got the rebound and scored on his own! Then, for three... YES! And just like that, a 12 point run gave the Blazers a 14 point lead. As the clock ticked down, Lillard drives to the hoop through three Lakers... and hits a layup! The Blazers left the court with an unlikely 92-76 lead, and the Lakers look shell-shocked.
CALLED SASHA PRE-GAME AS THE X-FACTOR
by Norsktroll (who did indeed call it in pregame)
The Lakers immediately attempted to claw back into the game as the fourth quarter began, but Lillard clawed back, giving the Blazers an 18 point lead. Finally, Kobe had enough, picking up a technical foul with 8 minutes left in the game. MWP finally took a hack at Batum in frustration. Then, it was time for another comeback. A Kobe three-point play cut the lead to 11 with 5 minutes left. However, a clutch Batum three stemmed the tide. An extremely tired, vocal and angry Kobe tried to place the Lakers on his back for one last run, down double-digits with 3 minutes left. The Blazers obliged by providing them with a few turnovers. But shortly after, the Rose Garden faithful were rewarded with streamers.
The second half was EVEN MORE FUN!
The next game is Friday, as the Blazers go from the LA frying pan into the OKC fire. Stay tuned tonight, Dave's analysis will surely be interesting, and Ben's Media Row report will be too. -- Tim
|Final - 10.31.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Lakers||26||31||19||30||106|
|Portland Trail Blazers||30||32||30||24||116|