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Place: Rose Garden, Portland, Oregon
The Los Angeles Lakers seek to bounce back from a highly disappointing season debut when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
The Lakers brought in center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash in the offseason after back-to-back second-round playoff exits but the star-studded Lakers lost 99-91 while being outplayed by all the role players on the Dallas Mavericks. Portland has a new coach in Terry Stotts and an impressive rookie in point guard Damian Lillard.
The Trail Blazers finished 10 games below .500 last season and have a new general manager in Neil Olshey in addition to a new coach in Stotts, who was an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge remains Portland’s top cog. Los Angeles guard Kobe Bryant played in the opener despite a painful foot injury and it remains to be seen how spry he will be for an early-season back-to-back. Howard had 19 points and 10 rebounds but was a woeful 3-for-14 from the free-throw line.
Los Angeles Lakers (0-1): Nash had a poor outing in his Los Angeles debut with just seven points and four assists. He never seemed to fully get in the flow while being outplayed by Dallas counterpart Darren Collison.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing night for us,” Nash said. “We have high expectations and we didn’t play well. It wasn’t good enough.” The 38-year-old Nash and Bryant are still searching for a comfort level due to the injury Bryant suffered in the preseason.
Portland Trail Blazers (2011-12: 28-38): Lillard was the sixth overall pick in June’s draft and he stood out in the preseason by leading all rookies with a 16.2 average.
There has been chatter about him being a top candidate for Rookie of the Year honors. “I don’t feel like I have anything else to prove to people as far as me belonging in the league,” Lillard said. “I just want to keep getting better. My only goal is to keep improving myself so I can help my team win games.”
1. Portland has won 16 of its last 20 home games against the Lakers.
2. The Lakers shot just 38.7 percent (12-of-31) from the free-throw line in the loss to Dallas.
3. Aldridge averaged 25 points and nine rebounds in three games against Los Angeles last season.