Lakers drop second straight, fall to Blazers
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Dwight Howard’s 33 points and 14 rebounds were not enough for the Los Angeles Lakers in
a 116-106 loss to the inspired Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Nicolas Batum had 26 points and the Blazers led by as many as 19 in handing the Lakers their second straight loss to open the season. Damian Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the June draft, had 22 points and 11 assists in his NBA debut for Portland.
The Lakers’ troubles were compounded by the loss of guard Steve Nash to a bruised left leg late in the first half.
Nash, acquired by the Lakers this summer, collided with Lillard and limped to the locker room. Although the team initially reported he was fine, Nash struggled when he returned for the second half and left the game for good a short time later.
Kobe Bryant had 30 points for the Lakers.
The loss, as well as the injury to Nash, came a day after Los Angeles dropped its season opener at home 99-91 to the Dallas Mavericks, spoiling the Lakers debuts of both Howard and Nash. Howard had 19 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in gold.
It was apparent for the second night in a row that the Lakers were still getting used to each other. The starters rarely played together during an 0-8 preseason.
The Blazers, who finished 28-38 last season and out of the playoffs, opened their season with eight newcomers on the roster after an offseason rebuilding effort around All-Star Lamarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Batum.
Portland pulled out to a 30-26 lead late in the first quarter after Matthews’ 3-pointer. Lillard extended the lead to 35-26 with a running bank shot in traffic.
J.J. Hickson’s jumper made it 41-34 for Portland, but Bryant answered for the Lakers with a 3-pointer. Batum’s fast-break jam gave the Blazers a 46-40 lead and Portland went into halftime with a 62-57 lead.
Portland took its momentum into the second half, going up 72-64 on another slam by Batum. Sasha Pavlovic’s 3-pointer gave the Blazers an 88-76 lead just before Howard was called for his fourth foul.
Matthews’ jumper made it 102-83 in the fourth quarter. Batum had a 3-pointer to make it 108-94 as the game slipped out of reach for the Lakers.
Batum’s opener comes after an uncertain offseason as a restricted free agent. The Blazers got into a poker match with the Timberwolves over the 23-year-old Frenchman, eventually matching Minnesota’s four-year offer sheet worth more than $45 million.
The Blazers wore new red uniforms for the opener and encouraged fans to wear red, but the crowd was nonetheless sprinkled with plenty of Lakers gold. Among them was a fan that lifted a sign reading, “I love Steve Nash.”
Nash, a two-time NBA MVP, was acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns this summer.
NOTES: The Blazers declined team options for next season on guards Elliott Williams and Nolan Smith, and forward Luke Babbitt, to maintain salary cap flexibility. All three will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, but the Blazers will retain their Bird rights. … Portland added 10 players to the roster of the team’s NBA D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede, including training camp participants Coby Karl, Justin Holiday and Dallas Lauderdale.