It didn’t take long for LeBron James to make his presence felt for the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night.
Less than three minutes into his debut in purple and gold, James broke open for a monster slam on a breakaway against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Back-to-back for LeBron
His next bucket? More of the same. Only this time in traffic.
The second dunk brought the cheering crowd to its collective feet.
They were playing in Portland.
By the time James’ first shift with the Lakers was done, he had tallied 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, three rebounds, an assist and a steal while leading the Lakers to a 29-22 lead in the first nine minutes of the game.
Fast start fizzles out
But the fast start for L.A. wasn’t sustainable pace as the Blazers used their superior 3-point shooting to spoil James’ debut in a 128-119 win.
While the Blazers were focused on the long-ball, the new-look Lakers pounded the ball inside with James and Rajon Rondo taking turns running the offense.
James slowed down after his first-quarter outburst but still led the Lakers with 26 points to go with 12 rebounds and six assists.
Damian Lillard paced the Trail Blazers with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists. Nick Stauskas added 24 points off the bench while shooting 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
Lakers miss first 15 3-pointers
The Lakers shot 48.4 percent from the floor, but struggled from distance. Fifty of their first 63 points came in the paint while they missed their first 15 3-pointers. Josh Hart’s 3-pointer with 2:22 left in the third quarter was the Lakers’ first make from distance.
The game was still close at that point, with the Blazers leading 85-83. But Portland pulled away in the fourth quarter, fueled by a “Beat L.A.” chant from the Moda Center crowd as their 3-point superiority proved too much for the Lakers to match.
The Blazers shot 13-of-37 from distance while the Lakers hit 7-of-30.
Emotions high in Portland
It was an emotional night in Portland, which paid tribute to late owner Paul Allen, who died Monday at 65 due to complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Lillard dedicated the win to Allen.
“We wanted to come out and play in his honor,” Lillard told TNT.
"We wanted to come out here and play in his honor."
Dame Lillard and the Blazers got the win for Paul Allen tonight
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) October 19, 2018
About those other new Lakers
James wasn’t the only new Lakers player drawing eyeballs on Thursday. Rondo and JaVale McGee made their debuts in the starting lineup and held their own.
Rondo finished with 13 points, 11 assists and four rebounds, while McGee logged 13 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.
They put together a nice highlight reel.
The Rajon Rondo ball-fake! #LakeShow
— NBA (@NBA) October 19, 2018
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 19, 2018
— NBA (@NBA) October 19, 2018
In the end, the Blazers’ shooting from the 3-point line and free throw line was too much. In addition to outplaying L.A. from distance, Portland shot 27-of-29 from the line.
The Lakers showed flash and promise with their new lineup. But if they have any notion of making noise in the playoffs, they’ll need to improve from long range.
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