Starting off right.
The Portland Trail Blazers played their first preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night, and with a score of 93-74 in Rip City’s favor, you can’t help but feel good about what you saw in the team’s opening performance.
Take a preseason game for what it is, but a win is a win for such a young Trail Blazers squad.
The Trail Blazers ended the 2011-12 season as one of the least interesting teams in the entire NBA, but after their first preseason game this time around, it’s clear that the team is going to be fun to watch.
The starters came out and played with a lot of energy, but it was the bench unit that was able to get up and down the court possession after possession.
Disorganized chaos isn’t necessarily a term of endearment, but it just might be the most accurate depiction of what Portland displays in 2013.
Damian Lillard’s Offense
We’ve all heard that Damian Lillard is a score-first point guard, and while there’s no doubting he can put the ball in the basket, he showed that he can run an offense and get his teammates involved in his first true NBA action.
Lillard was able to thread the needle on his passes, find backdoor cutters and hit spot-up shooters en route to 14 points, five rebounds and seven assists.
Lillard has been hyped for months now, so seeing him on the floor producing is a sigh of relief—even in a preseason game.
LaMarcus Aldridge Looks Healthy
If the preseason opener is any indication, LaMarcus Aldridge is back and ready for action.
His ability to run the floor looked as good as ever, his fade away jumper was spot on and his aggressiveness at the rim was nice to see from a player coming off season-ending hip surgery.
Aldridge’s health is one of the biggest factors in Portland’s success this year, and having seen what we saw Thursday night, fans in Portland should exhale when it comes to the big man’s health.
Meyers Leonard’s Bench Production
As a rookie, we know that Leonard needs to bulk up. He’s going to need to get stronger if he’s going to bang down low, as evident by the foul trouble he encountered throughout the contest.
That being said, the big man posted 10 points and five rebounds—and one highlight-worthy alley-oop—in just 17 minutes.
Good Offensive Flow
The Blazers came out and immediately began flowing on offense. Constant movement, backdoor cuts and outside curls resulted in easy shots at the rim and open looks from the perimeter throughout the entire game.
Say what you want about the Lakers not having defensive gurus Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, but this team looked as if they’ve jelled nicely considering the youth and inexperience that occupies the current roster.
This team looked good Thursday night, and even if a rough season is what lies ahead, they’re already infinitely more exciting to watch than the team that finished the year in 2012.
So what’s not to like?
Depth is going to be an issue for the Trail Blazers this season.
The Blazers looked good on Thursday, but it was clear when the starters left the lineup that the offense began to rely far more on outrunning their opponents and far less on solid game planning.
The team played a number of guys in the opener who will reside near the end of the bench in the regular season, and while the team got the win, it’s important to remember one thing.
The Blazers will look largely the same come opening night, while the Lakers will have Bryant—and potentially Howard—back in the lineup.
Having a young starting core is fine if you have experience and production to come off the bench. The Blazers don’t have that luxury, and as a result, their starters are going to carry the load in 2013.