Sat, Oct 20, 2018 - Page 16 News List

James, Lakers open with loss


LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers goes to the basket against the Portland Trail Blazers in their NBA game in Portland, Oregon, on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

LeBron James’ debut for the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday opened with two thunderous dunks and closed with a loss.

He finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds, but the Portland Trail Blazers prevailed 128-119 in the season opener for both teams.

James said that the new-look Lakers were going to be a work in progress.

“It’s not instant oatmeal. It’s not that fast,” James said. “It takes some time to get that chemistry where you can just close your eyes and know exactly where guys are.”

Damian Lillard had 28 points and Nik Stauskas came off the bench to score 24 for Portland, who won their 18th straight home opener to extend an NBA record.

It was the Blazers’ 16th straight victory over the Lakers.

The opening festivities were tempered by the death this week of Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. A “Rip City” baseball cap rested in Allen’s court-side seat with a single rose.

The enigmatic cofounder of Microsoft died on Monday in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 65.

On the court, the focus was all on James.

His monster dunks to start stunned the Moda Center crowd, while Nike cofounder Phil Knight looked on from a court-side seat.

James signed a four-year, US$153 million deal with the Lakers as a free agent. The four-time league Most Valuable Player joined a revamped group that includes veterans Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley, as well as a young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and rookie Moe Wagner.

While the Lakers made big changes in the off-season, the Trail Blazers returned all five starters from a team that finished third in the Western Conference.

“We wanted to come out and start the season right, and to honor our owner, Mr Paul Allen. That’s what tonight was all about for us, not about the noise surrounding the game,” Lillard said.

James’ putback gave Los Angeles a 25-15 lead. He played just under nine minutes in the opening quarter and led all scorers with 13 points.

Portland pulled in front 46-40 on Stauskas’ three-pointer. Stauskas, who signed with the Blazers as a free agent in the summer, led all Blazers with 16 points in the opening half.

Portland pushed the lead to 11, but led just 65-63 at the break.

“He really got in a groove and the guy can shoot, we’ve seen it in practice,” coach Terry Stotts said about Stauskas.

James had 18 points, but collected a third foul with 6 minutes, 04 seconds left in the half.

Kuzma’s dunk got the Lakers within 79-78 with just more than four minutes left in the third quarter.

Hart’s three-pointer — the Lakers’ first of the game — put Los Angeles up 85-83. The lead was short-lived, but Portland had just a 93-91 advantage going into the final quarter.

Stauskas hit a three-pointer that put Portland up 107-100 with 7:22 left.

McCollum’s three-pointer with 5:01 left put Portland up 114-104.

Caldwell-Pope’s three-pointer with 30.7 seconds left got the Lakers within 124-118, but Stauskas made a pair of free throws and Los Angeles could not catch up.

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