Originally written November 08, 2012 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Top Blazers Last 7 Days The Portland Trail Blazers returned to the court last week to kick off the 2012-13 NBA season, and so returns my weekly Rick’s Picks column. I know you missed it. Portland opened the new season in stunning fashion, going 2-2 over their first four games, with one of the wins being notched in the incredibly hyped home opener against the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant and company (some guy named Steve Nash and a seven-footer they got from Orlando) couldn’t maintain momentum against Portland, while rookie point guard Damian Lillard dazzled the crowd and showed that he is, in fact, ready for the NBA. Before a raucous Rose Garden crowd, the Blazers were all over the Lakers from the get go, and they put them away 116-106 (Chalupas!) to start the 2012-13 campaign. So while many have Portland finishing near the bottom of the Western Conference (I’m part of the many), the first week’s games showed that Portland may very well exceed some of their preseason expectations. That’s not to say they’ll be a top-5 seed in the West, but you could see them win closer to 40 games, which would be a very welcome sight in an obvious rebuilding year. Here are the three best performances by a Blazer in their opening week. First Star: Damian Lillard (10/31: W vs. LA Lakers) Lillard is the team’s All-Star from the first week of the season (Photo: The Oregonian) The rookie was already making waves in the NBA during the summer league games after he was named co-MVP, so his first official professional game was going to be nothing short of a spectacle; if not for just ticket sales alone, but possibly in the event that Portland may actually witness a draft pick that shows real potential. Lillard was effective from the start, recording five points, four assists and two rebounds in the first quarter alone. Feeding off of the roars from the Rose Garden crowd, Lillard showed he could compete at the NBA level, and showcased why Portland used their No. 6 overall pick on the guard out of Weber State. Finishing the night with 23 points, 11 assists, three rebounds and one steal, Lillard joined Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players to record 20 or more points, and at least 10 assists, in their NBA debuts (per Elias Sports Bureau). That’s pretty good company. Second Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (11/3: W @ Houston) Portland’s bona fide All-Star is back at it again this year, and his performance against Houston this past weekend was no different. The forward out of Texas came up big against a Rockets team that had seen some early season success behind their newest acquisition, James Harden. LaMarcus Aldridge put up 27 points on 13-of-29 from the floor, 11 rebounds, six assists, one steal and two blocks. Talk about stuffing the stat sheet, LA was making an impact on both sides of the floor all night long. While it was Lillard who controlled the overtime period, and led Portland to the win, it was Aldridge’s play throughout that kept the Blazers competing against one of the surprise teams in the West. Third Star: Nicolas Batum (10/31: W vs. LA Lakers) Portland’s new $46 million dollar man was proving he’s worth every penny of that new contract in the season opener against the Lakers. Logging 40 minutes of action, Nicolas Batum scored 26 points on 9-of-16 from the floor, 3-of-9 from beyond the arc and 5-of-7 from the charity stripe. Nic also grabbed six rebounds, had one assist, three steals and one block. It was his all-around effort last Wednesday night that helped Portland stay out in front of Los Angeles for most of the game. His dunk in the third quarter, on Dwight Howard of all people, put the Rose Garden in a frenzy, and in that moment, all was forgotten about the Frenchman’s desire to play in Minnesota. Hopefully we see this on a more consistent basis out of Batum; the Blazers could seriously use it this year. Dunk of the Week: Nicolas Batum vs. LA Lakers As mentioned above, here is the dunk that set the Rose Garden on fire in the home opener. Enjoy. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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