LeBron James directs the offense against the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 18, 2018.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

LeBron Stars in Lakers Debut, But Portland Captures Win

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

As expected, the world’s most dominant player brought it. But so did the Trail Blazers.

In enemy territory on opening night, LeBron James put up 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in his first official game in purple and gold. However, the Lakers were doomed by poor shooting and defensive lapses, falling 128-119.

James had a measured take on his team’s first outing, but assured that the Lakers will find their cohesion in the long run.

“I always kind of compare it to instant oatmeal,” James said. “It’s not that fast. It takes a while for the chemistry to get to where you close your eyes and you know exactly where your guys are. That’s what we’re going to work towards.”

James’ 26 points tied Magic Johnson and Stu Lantz for the second-most in a Lakers debut in franchise history — one shy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record. LeBron reached his total by thriving in the Lakers’ high-octane system.

Of his nine made-buckets, five came in transition — including back-to-back fast-break slams for his first points as a Laker.

“They were thunderous,” Josh Hart said. “They gave us great energy. He’s the best player in the world for a reason.”

As part of the Lakers’ no-speed-limits attack, James crashed the glass with authority, starting several fast-breaks himself and adding a couple put-backs on offensive boards.

With James leading the rebounding effort, the Lakers scored 34 fast-break points — nearly twice their 17.5 average that ranked second in the NBA last season.

Another player who, unsurprisingly, thrived in transition was Hart, who scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while playing excellent defense, including three steals and two blocks.

Hart started multiple fast-breaks by creating turnovers and finished a couple himself, scoring five times at the rim both on the break and in the half-court. He also sunk 3-of-5 from 3-point range, including a pump-faked buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter.

However, aside from Hart, the Lakers’ shooting was dismal. They missed all of their first 15 attempts from deep, failing to splash until Hart canned a trey with 2:22 left in the third quarter.

“They were good shots,” coach Luke Walton said. “We’re gonna keep taking those.”

On the night, they shot just 7-of-30 from downtown (23.3 percent), while Portland hit 13-of-37. Nik Stauskas (24 points) sunk five triples on his own, as he, Damian Lillard (28) and C.J. McCollum (21) led the Blazers to their 18th consecutive win in a home opener.

“It was a good first test for us to be in a building where they haven’t lost [since] 2000,” James said.

Brandon Ingram scored 16 points, heating up for a 10-point third quarter. JaVale McGee had 13 points and eight rebounds. They were joined in the starting lineup by James, Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Rondo stood out on both sides of the court, finishing with 13 points, 11 assists and four rebounds. Lonzo Ball, who was the second-unit point guard, had his playing time monitored, tallying seven points and four rebounds in 19 minutes.

James shot 9-of-12 from two-point range, but 0-of-4 on 3’s. … L.A. had huge advantages in points in the paint (70-56) and fast-break points (34-12). … The Lakers have lost 16 straight games against Portland. … The Blazers left a rose and cap on an empty courtside seat in honor of late owner Paul Allen, who passed away on Monday.

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