Even without one of the NBA's best players, the Portland Trail Blazers are off to a strong start.
After a rough first two games, the Los Angeles Lakers also appear ready to again challenge for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Looking to build on a victory over one of the West's other favorites, the Trail Blazers host the surging Lakers on Thursday night.
Despite losing All-Star Brandon Roy to an injury-induced early retirement, Portland (4-1) won its first three games then rebounded from a five-point road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers by winning 103-93 at Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 30 points while Gerald Wallace added 13 with 10 rebounds for the West-leading Trail Blazers, who held the Thunder to 40 points on 34.0 percent shooting in the second half.
"We've got a lot of players that can do a lot of different things," said guard Wesley Matthews, who had 16 points, six rebounds and four steals.
"You can't replace Brandon Roy, with all of the things that he did for this organization and the community itself. But we've got a lot of guys that are willing to."
Oklahoma City was just 5 of 20 from 3-point range, and opponents are shooting 26.3 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 94.0 points against the Trail Blazers.
"That's the way we're capable of playing," said guard Raymond Felton, who added 12 points and seven assists. "I feel like if we play like that, or at least try to, we'll have a good season."
Aldridge, averaging 22.2 points, totaled 53 on 22-of-37 shooting and pulled down 25 boards as Portland split a pair of home games with the Lakers last season.
Los Angeles won the first three meetings before losing 93-86 at Portland on April 8. The Trail Blazers have won their first three games at the Rose Garden this season and 13 of 14 there dating to 2010-11.
The Lakers have won two of three at Portland following a nine-game road skid in the series.
After dropping its first two contests, Los Angeles won for the fourth time in five games Tuesday, 108-99 over Houston.
Kobe Bryant scored 37 points and the Lakers (4-3) continued to benefit from the return of center Andrew Bynum from a season-opening four-game suspension stemming from a hard hit on former Dallas guard J.J. Barea during the 2011 playoffs.
Bynum, who finished with 21 points and 22 rebounds Tuesday, has averaged 22.7 and 17.0, respectively, in three games. Finally healthy, the 7-footer might be able to provide the consistent production the Lakers hoped for when they selected him with the 10th overall pick in 2005.
"We all know the amount of talent he has, and he's really worked on it," Bryant said. "The thing that I like about him is that he has an engine inside of him, and he wants to dominate. He has ambition to be great."
Bynum has averaged just 6.2 points and 5.5 boards in 11 games versus Portland.
Bryant, who broke out Tuesday after totaling 33 points on 12-of-46 shooting in the previous two contests, has averaged 33.5 points in his last 15 games at the Rose Garden.
- Sports & Recreation
- Sports & Recreation/Basketball
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Los Angeles Clippers