Trail Blazers vs Suns Friday, 10/12/12 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Outrun Lakers 93-75 In Preseason Debut

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    Rookie point guard Damian Lillard started out slowly, but would eventually break out later in the game to lead the Trail Blazers to a 93-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Ontario, CA in Portland’s preseason opener. 

    LaMarcus Aldridge set the tone in the first quarter by hitting a turnaround to start the scoring. The All-Star picked up right where he left off and had ten first quarter points. The new offensive philosophy brought to Portland by new head coach Terry Stotts to encourage player and ball movement seemed to be paying dividends, as four out of the first six Trail Blazers’ field goals were assisted. Aldridge finished the game with 14 points and 8 rebounds and was also effective in protecting the rim on his defensive rotations. What Aldridge started, Lillard would continue throughout the game.

    In the final two minutes of the first half Lillard was responsible for all three baskets the Trail Blazers scored, making two and assisting on another one to fellow rookie Meyers Leonard. Lillard looked very comfortable running the show in transition and was at his best when aggressive.

    He carried that confidence into the second half, doing seemingly anything and everything he wanted: driving, dishing, hitting his step-back and knocking down open threes created by Portland’s ball movement.  Lillard finished the game with 14 points, seven assists, five rebounds and only two turnovers while shooting over 50% from the field in 24 minutes.

    Lillard competed on defense, but nobody over the last few years has been able to keep Steve Nash in check, so it’s tough to fault him for Nash having a productive evening with 13 points, four assists and four rebounds in 25 minutes.  Lillard was efficient and fun to watch while leading the Trail Blazers to a 29-point third quarter, which would ultimately propel the Trail Blazers to victory.

    Lillard wasn’t the only rookie to make an impression. Almost immediately after entering the game in the first quarter, Meyers Leonard threw down an alley-oop from back-up point guard Ronnie Price. Leonard would go on to score ten points in a variety of ways, dunking on the pick-and-roll, face-up game and midrange jumper, getting out in transition and hitting free-throws. He had a solid eighteen minutes, grabbing five rebounds to go with his bench-leading ten points.

    The other Portland starters, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and JJ Hickson all played productive minutes. Matthews stuck his outside jumpers and played good defense, Batum was active defensively and showed his confidence in his jumper off the dribble, spotting up and coming off screens. Hickson, despite not making a lot of noise offensively was a pleasant surprise defensively with three blocks and five rebounds, all on the defensive end.

    The Trail Blazers bench had a good night as everybody that played scored. Jared Jeffries started at center in the second half, which was also when the Trail Blazers made their run. Jeffries set the tone defensively taking two charges and the defensive rotations with the unit of Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge and Jeffries were the best of the game. Jeffries finished with a +/- of +15, a statistic Jeffries prides himself on. Another pleasantry on the Trail Blazers bench was Adam Morrison. Morrison connected on his open looks, helped move the ball effectively and showed lots of patience. Morrison finished with 9 points on 4-6 shooting in 12 minutes of play.

    Sixteen Trail Blazers were on the floor and all played at least a quarter of basketball. The aggressive defense coupled with rough perimeter shooting from the Lakers led to a lot of transition opportunities, producing 19 fast break points. In the half court, Portland had good ball and player movement, which led to lots of players getting clean shots.

    Not a lot can be gleaned regarding the opponent and frankly, not even about the Trail Blazers with this double-digit victory. The Lakers were without both Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol shot 3-12.

    However, this first preseason game was indicative of the style of play one can expect from the Trail Blazers under Terry Stotts. They will run, move, pass and play aggressive defense. They play with youthful exuberance, they are learning and kicked off the preseason in a very positive way.

    The Trail Blazers next preseason game will be in Phoenix on Friday night against another team that has undergone an extensive offseason makeover in the Suns. That game will be at 7PM and can be seen on CSNNW 37 and heard on 1190 KEX.  

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