The Portland Trail Blazers drew two of the NBA’s biggest games during the 2018-19 schedule release, getting to host LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers Oct. 18 in the Moda Center (LeBron’s first game with the Lakers) and playing the Utah Jazz in one of only five Christmas Day games. Kevin Pelton of ESPN, in a roundtable with his colleagues, sees Portland’s potential in the marquee games.
Pelton picked the opener against the Lakers as the game to look forward to out of the marquee slate (which includes opening week, Christmas and MLK Day):
I’m excited to be in the building for LeBron’s first game with the Lakers, which will be played in an arena where he has had little success recently. LeBron’s teams have lost the last five games he has played in Portland, and until he had 35 points and a ferocious dunk on Jusuf Nurkic last March, James hadn’t scored more than 20 points in any of them.
However, colleague Chris Herring offered a different take on LeBron’s first game with LA being against Portland:
This one had me a tad confused. His first game won’t be against a particularly noteworthy opponent (the Warriors or the Celtics). It won’t be played on his new home court. It won’t be played against a player he has had fierce battles with in the past (he had a pretty decent history of playing season openers against Carmelo). It’s simply against Portland. I’ll watch, just like everyone else, but this one didn’t really stand out to me.
Moving on to Christmas Day games, Pelton again noticed Portland by picking Damian Lillard as his player to drop 40 points on Christmas:
As incredible as the Jazz’s defense is, Utah has often had few answers for Lillard’s deep 3s. He scored a career-high 59 points against the Jazz in April 2017 and averaged 33 in four matchups last season. Playing near where he starred in college at Weber State and on Christmas Day for the first time in his career, Lillard will surely look to make Dec. 25 Lillard Time.