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NBA SEASON OPENER | LAKERS 96, PORTLAND 76

Lakers come out blazing

Gasol is sharp in the first half and Bryant takes over in the second in an easy victory over Portland that does nothing to slow championship aspirations. Oden injures his foot.

October 29, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Bresnahan is a Times staff writer.

So much for the young, up-and-coming Portland Trail Blazers.

On Tuesday, they were merely injury-prone and down-and-out against the Lakers, who glided to an easy 96-76 victory in a season opener at Staples Center.

Portland never led and never seemed to have a clue, the Lakers simply too big, too fast and too efficient from outside.

Pau Gasol had 15 points, all in the first half, on seven-for-10 shooting and Kobe Bryant finished with 23 points, 17 in the second half.

"I'm surprised by it," Bryant said of the margin of victory. "Portland's been a team that's kind of given us a lot of trouble. But we were able to stifle them a bit, which I'm very pleased with."

The showdown between Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum was infinitely more hype than substance, particularly when Oden left after the second quarter because of a sprained right foot. His numbers: no points, four missed shots, two missed free throws and five rebounds in 13 minutes.

Bynum, for his part, had a quiet night, collecting eight points and three rebounds in 28 minutes.

In the grander scheme, though, the game was the latest example of the difference a year could make.

In last season's opener, Bryant was booed during pregame introductions, a clear indicator that fans were angered by his demand to be traded.

(Bryant went on that night to score 45 points on 32 shots and 27 free-throw attempts in a loss to Houston. The Lakers started out with a 9-8 record, their championship possibilities seeming too far away to calculate.)

Times have changed, obviously, the Lakers now taking up space atop most pundits' championship predictions.

A feeling of dominance was in the air from the start, supported by seemingly everything purple and gold.

The pregame video montage, set to dramatic music and highlights from last season, used white block letters against a black background to get a point across: "This year . . . This team . . . This tradition . . . This city . . . This time is ours."

Along those lines, Jordan Farmar took the microphone and addressed the crowd beforehand, making reference to the six-game flameout in the NBA Finals.

"Everybody in this building knows we left off on the wrong foot last year," he said. "So we've got a lot of work to do."

Consider them one victory into their master plan.

Gasol picked up where he left off in exhibition play, showing plenty of efficiency in his new power forward role.

"That's the way he's been playing," Coach Phil Jackson said. "He's been shooting the ball awfully well."

Bryant perked up after a six-point first half, showing off an array of spin moves and a double-clutch dunk that pleased the crowd to no end.

The Lakers' reserves also staked an early claim to best in the West.

Trevor Ariza had 11 points and showed off his new shooting range, drilling two three-pointers. Lamar Odom showed what he could bring as a sixth man, parlaying a warm ovation when he entered the game into a nine-point, seven-rebound night in 29 minutes.

The Lakers led by 15 at the half, by as many as 23, and could afford to laugh when one of their few gaffes took place. Odom fed a wide-open Sasha Vujacic on the sideline, but there was one problem: Vujacic hadn't entered the game yet and was still wearing his sweats.

As for the Trail Blazers, Oden's only highlight was swatting Bynum's shot a couple of minutes into the game. He was injured while tracking a rebound with 9:20 left in the first quarter, but limped his way through the first half. X-rays at halftime were inconclusive, and he will undergo an MRI exam today.

Oden was pretty much a metaphor for Portland's night.

Not that the Lakers would celebrate winning a season opener, but they won't have time to do much of anything before tonight's game against the Clippers, other than a shoot-around this morning.

As they might say at that get-together: One game down, about 100 to go.

--

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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