PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – LeBron James opened with two thunderous dunks and had 26 points and 12 rebounds in his first game with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Portland Trail Blazers prevailed, 128-119, Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
Damian Lillard had 28 points and Nik Stauskas came off the bench to score 24 for Portland, which won its 18th straight home opener to extend an NBA record.
It was the Blazers’ 16th straight victory over the Lakers.
The opening festivities were tempered by the death this week of Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. A “Rip City” baseball cap rested in Allen’s courtside seat with a single rose.
The enigmatic co-founder of Microsoft died Monday in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 65. There was moment of silence before the game and tributes to Allen throughout the night.
On the court, the focus was all on James. His monster dunks to start stunned the Moda Center crowd while Nike co-founder Phil Knight looked on from courtside seats.
James signed a four-year, $153 million deal with the Lakers as a free agent in the offseason after winning three NBA championship rings and taking his team — Miami and Cleveland — to the NBA Finals for each of the last eight seasons.
The four-time league MVP joined a revamped group that includes veterans Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley, as well as a young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and rookie Moe Wagner.
While the Lakers made big changes in the offseason, the Trail Blazers returned all five starters from a team that finished third in the Western Conference last season — including the nucleus of Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.
In Washington, Kelly Olynyk certainly wasn’t counting on Dwyane Wade to miss. When Wade did, Olynyk was in the perfect spot.
Olynyk grabbed the rebound off Wade’s errant turnaround jumper and layed in the go-ahead basket with 0.2 seconds left Thursday night, lifting the Miami Heat to a ragged 113-112 victory over the Washington Wizards, who probably could have used sidelined center Dwight Howard’s rebounding skills in their season opener.