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Steady Blazers hand Lakers their second consecutive defeat

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Los Angeles Lakers may yet work themselves into position to be a bona fide contender for the NBA championship. They're a long way from that point now.

Portland forward Nicolas Batum scored 26 points and got plenty of scoring help from his teammates as the Trail Blazers toppled the Lakers 116-106 Wednesday night on opening night at the Rose Garden.

It was the second loss in as many nights for the Lakers, who fell 99-91 to the Dallas Mavericks in their opener Tuesday.

All five Portland starters scored in double figures, including rookie point guard Damian Lillard, who contributed 23 points and 11 assists in his career debut. Shooting guard Wesley Matthews added 22 points for the young Blazers, who are not expected to be a playoff team this season.

"A huge win for us," said Matthews, who made seven of 11 shots, including four of six from 3-point range. "There are a lot of doubters against us, a lot of people writing us off. This isn't going to silence them, but it should certify our belief in ourselves."

Dwight Howard had 33 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, and Kobe Bryant bombed in 30 points for the Lakers, who had 24 turnovers.

"There were a lot of reasons why we turned the ball over, from charges taken by Portland to deflections," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "But every turnover seemed to hurt us."

Portland shot 50.6 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range while making only 12 turnovers against a Los Angeles defense that has been porous in its first two outings.

"We're trying to figure out how to pick each other up out there on the floor," Bryant said. "We're not the quickest team in the world. A lot of teams have very quick point guards and quick wings. We just have to work on supporting each other and keeping the ball out of the paint and (opponents) away from the rim."

Portland expanded a five-point halftime lead to 70-61 and then 77-66 midway through the third quarter after consecutive dunks off steals by Batum and Matthews. Howard and Bryant then led a 10-2 surge that got the Lakers within 79-76.

The Blazers responded by closing out the quarter on a 13-0 run -- reserve forward Sasha Pavlovic scored seven straight points in the middle of it -- as they took a 92-76 advantage into the final period. The Lakers made a late rush to get to within eight points in the final minute, but they could get no closer.

"I can't say I'm surprised, especially with the play of our starters," first-year Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "That group has played a lot of minutes together. They're very good players and a competitive group.

"The way we finished the third quarter was great. (The Lakers) had their bench in, and we were able to take advantage of that. I would liked to have finished the last three or four minutes better, but it was a solid win from start to finish."

NOTES: The Lakers went most of the second half without the services of Steve Nash. The veteran point guard left the game early in the third quarter with a left leg bruise and did not return. "I got kicked in the lower leg and got a nasty little contusion," said Nash, who had two points and four assists in 16 minutes. "I thought it would be OK, but I couldn't do any kind of lateral movements." ... After making three of 14 free-throw attempts against the Mavericks, Howard went 15-for-19 at the line Wednesday night. ... Lillard, the No. 6 pick in the 2012 draft out of Weber State, was 7-for-17 from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line. He had six turnovers in 35 minutes. ... Lillard's first assist came on a left-handed, behind-the-back bounce pass to Aldridge, who drained a 15-footer. ... The Blazers have won 17 of the last 21 and 31 of the last 39 meetings with the Lakers in Portland dating to 1993. ... Matthews played in his 231st straight game. He has never missed a game during his four years in the NBA.
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