Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Batum and Lillard lead the Blazers to season-opening victory

The Blazers came out with massive amounts of energy on opening night in the Rose Garden, and a balanced team effort led by Nicolas Batum and rookie Damian Lillard sparked the Portland Trail Blazers to a 116-106 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Head coach Terry Stotts' team-oriented motion offense is a far cry from former coach Nate McMillan's plodding, isolation offense that often left Batum stuck in the corner. Batum came out aggressive early in the game, and finished with a team-high 26 points (9-16 FG), 6 rebounds and 3 steals.

Lillard's Portland debut was stellar, as he finished with 23 points and 11 assists, as he was able to get teammates involved in the offense early. While he made some poor decisions (which all rookies will do from time to time), he largely played with patience and took what the defense gave him.
The sixth overall pick in June's draft, there were some who believed that Lillard's learning curve would be a steep one, going from the Big West Sky Conference to the NBA. Throughout the preseason, Lillard was able to show a good feel for the game, which was questioned as he was largely forced to carry the scoring load for his team.
Nicolas Batum displayed the aggression that many Portland fans had hoped for throughout his first four seasons with the team, looking for his shot and attacking the basket when there was an opening. Stotts' offense did a great job of putting Batum in pick-and-roll situations as well, and Batum took full advantage of his opportunities.
There was drama around Batum this offseason, as the forward signed a big-time (reportedly 4 years, $46 million) offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves as a restricted free agent. The Blazers eventually matched the offer, proving that Batum was indeed a big part of the team's future plans. His effort against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers has to be an encouraging sign for general manager Neil Olshey, who took some heat for potentially over-paying to keep the French forward.
Franchise cornerstone LaMarcus Aldridge started out hot, dropping 12 points in the first half as the Blazers jumped out to a five point halftime lead. Aldridge's rhythm was never the same in the second half, which in the past would have probably been a death-knell against a team like Los Angeles, but not on this night, as an overall team effort kept them afloat.
The team also got solid efforts out of J.J. Hickson (13 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks), Wesley Matthews (22 points, 4 steals) and reserve Sasha Pavlovic (7 points in a key third-quarter run that helped extend the Blazers lead).
While the Blazers won't be contending for any NBA titles this season, the encouraging efforts from players like Batum and Lillard, as well as team-oriented offense run by coach Stotts has instilled hope and excitement for the city of Portland, and it's fans.


  1. Although this was only the first game out, I was proud of the energy and effort. Great job boys.

    A Blazer fan lost in Oklahoma

  2. I know it's not a big deal, but Lillard played in the Big Sky Conference not the Big West.