Blazers Host LeBron And Lakers In Home Opener, Get Christmas Day Game Versus Jazz

by Casey Holdahl
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Sometimes it can feel like the Trail Blazers, by virtue of being a smaller market team situated in what constitutes the hinterlands of the NBA, are overlooked when it comes to playing in the marquee games on the league’s nationally-televised schedule.

While that might have been some validity to that theory in the past, it would be an impossible argument to make going into the 2018-19 season.

The Portland Trail Blazers will start their 2018-19 campaign by hosting LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, October 18 at the Moda Center in a game that will air on TNT as part of the NBA’s national TV opening week schedule. What’s more, the Trail Blazers will also face the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on ESPN as the nightcap of the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule after sitting the holiday out the last seven seasons.

First, the season opener, which is replete with interesting story lines and streaks to consider.

There’s the Trail Blazers’ winning streak versus the Lakers, which dates back to the 2013-14 season and currently stands at 15-straight regular season games. It is the second-longest winning streak against the Lakers by any team all-time and is the second-longest active winning streak against one opponent in the league. Not a bad way to get focused for the start of the season.

And then there’s Portland’s 17-game winning streak in home openers, which is both the current and all-time NBA record for most consecutive home-opening victories. Portland has beaten 13 different teams during the streak, including the Lakers in 2002 and 2012.

But the last team to beat the Trail Blazers in their home opener? The Los Angeles Lakers on October 31, 2000.

And who could forget about LeBron. The Trail Blazers’ home opener serves as LeBron’s first game as a Los Angeles Laker after spending his first 15 seasons bouncing back and forth between Cleveland and Miami. Lebron is 18-9 overall in his career and 5-5 in his last 10 meetings versus the Trail Blazers. More specific to today’s news, James has been on the losing end of his last five games at the Moda Center, with his last victory in Portland coming on March 1, 2012 when he was a part of the Miami Heat (the Heat also defeated the Trail Blazers in Portland on December 29, 2013, though James sat out that contest due to injury).

James won’t be the only player making his Lakers debut on October 18, as Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo, who absolutely tormented the Trail Blazers in their ill-fated playoff series versus the Pelicans, all joined a roster that includes Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.

A little over two months after the opener, the Trail Blazers will be in Salt Lake City to take on Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and the rest of Utah Jazz on Christmas. The similarities between Lillard and Mitchell, Utah’s presumed ascendance into the upper echelon of the Western Conference and the fact that neither team has played a game on Christmas in nearly a decade (the Jazz haven’t played on Christmas since 1997!) makes this an ideal end to the NBA’s five-game, nationally-televised holiday schedule.

And as is the case with home openers, the Trail Blazers have done playing on Christmas. Though their last Christmas Day game in 2010 resulted in a 109-102 loss to the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, the Trail Blazers are 14-3 overall in games played on December 25.

With the the first week and holiday games released, all that's left is the full 2018-19 regular season schedule, which drops on Friday.