Let the season begin
Matchup: Portland (0-0) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (0-0)
Venue: Rose Garden Arena
Time: 7:30 PM PT
Date: Oct. 31, 2012
The Rose Garden Arena is going to be as loud as ever come Halloween night, and the Blazers must be on top of their game if they’re going to take down the powerhouse from L.A.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
The theme of this matchup is going to be youth versus experience. The Trail Blazers have one of the youngest teams in the entire league, while the Lakers have a veteran starting lineup looking to win big right away.
Both of these teams are coming off a summer of reconstruction, but it’s the Lakers who are going to be considered contenders from day one of the 2012-13 season.
While these two teams are going to be running different offensive sets all year, they’re both making an effort to cut down on the amount of isolation sets they run from possession to possession.
Terry Stotts in Portland is going to look to push the tempo and score quickly, while Mike Brown in L.A. is adding elements of the Princeton offense to his gameplan.
The Lakers have struggled at the Rose Garden in recent memory, and they’ll look to break that trend with a new roster in 2013.
What to Watch: Portland
There are a number of storylines surrounding the season opener in Portland, but the regular season debut of Damian Lillard is going to be the focal point for most Blazermaniacs.
Damian Lillard was the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, and he has been touted as the Point Guard of the Future ever since his arrival. His style of play is right on par with today’s NBA floor generals, and he is going to look to make a name for himself right out of the gate.
Lillard is going to be put to the test defensively against Steve Nash, but on the offensive end of the floor, there’s a good chance he’ll have his way with a point guard who has become notorious for his subpar defensive play.
The 6’3” point guard has the ability to score at will, but what the organization is truly excited to see is how well he blends with his teammates. LaMarcus Aldridge is, and will continue to be, the go-to scorer on this team, and if he and Lillard can establish a two-man game in the season opener, it will be a good sign for the tandem moving forward.
What to Watch: Los Angeles
From the Trail Blazers’ perspective, the main thing to watch for on opening night is how well the Lakers are jelling as a brand new unit.
Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Nash all deserve the opportunity to score, but they must put their egos aside if they’re going to succeed as a team moving forward. That being said, if anybody in the league is going to get everybody to play together, it’s Nash.
Running a new offense with a new point guard always creates for variables—especially at the beginning of a season—but Nash is clearly the right guy to keep the stars in check.
The one player who may truly feel blindsided if his shots are limited is Bryant. He is going to have to play off the ball this season, and if he isn’t able to hoist 20-plus shots each contest, you have to wonder exactly where his biggest impact will be felt.
Although Lillard versus Nash is going to be a fun matchup for fans to watch, the battle in the post between LaMarcus Aldridge and Gasol is going to be where the Blazers have the best chance of winning.
Aldridge has expanded his game to the point where he can produce both inside and out, and the same thing can be said about Gasol most nights out of the year.
Neither or these players are great defenders, so the back-and-forth battle on the offensive end is going to be something to keep an eye on all game long.
Portland: Out—Elliot Williams (Knee), Probable—Meyers Leonard (Head)
Los Angeles: Probable—Dwight Howard (Back), Kobe Bryant (Foot)
The Trail Blazers are going to come out with a ton of energy on opening night, and a wild home crowd should help the team upset a Lakers squad that is still establishing their go-to options.