Thunder battle upstart Blazers
(Sports Network) - They certainly didn't play like a team pegged to finish last in the Northwest Division.
The Portland Trail Blazers surprised many with their convincing season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers, and will face another challenging opponent tonight against the division-rival Oklahoma City Thunder.
Preseason candidate for Rookie of the Year, Blazers guard Damian Lillard left a major first impression with the rest of the league by finishing with 23 points and 11 assists in under 35 minutes of action.
"People probably didn't expect us to come out and beat that type of team, but we've been competing very hard in practice, and we did that same thing tonight," Lillard said after the 116-106 victory.
Lillard joined Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players in NBA history with at least 20 points and 10 assists in their NBA debut.
Nicolas Batum led the way with 26 points and Wesley Matthews netted 22 points for the Blazers, who have won four consecutive season openers and shot 50.6 percent for the game. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 19 points in the win, while J.J. Hickson posted a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Blazers scored at least 30 points in each of the first three quarters and forced 25 turnovers. They had only 12 turnovers themselves. Portland's first seven games this season are against teams with records of .500 or better last season, and the team will play 12 of the first 19 on the road.
Oklahoma City opened defense of its Western Conference title last night at San Antonio, but dropped a tough 86-84 setback to the Spurs. Tony Parker tied the contest with a late 3-pointer and then hit the game-winning jumper as time expired for a dramatic victory.
Russell Westbrook, who did his best to cover Parker in the end, had a costly turnover late in the game and finished with six on the night. Westbrook scored 18 points and Kevin Durant notched a game-best 23 points to eclipse the 10,000-point mark in his career. Durant has won three straight scoring titles.
"I'm proud of our guys," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "That was a great first game. That's the way to open up the season. Obviously I wish we would have won the game, but there's nothing to be ashamed of."
Kevin Martin was acquired in the blockbuster deal from Houston and scored 15 points in a reserve role. Martin joined the Thunder this week when reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was dealt to the Houston Rockets.
The Thunder are home for three straight games versus Portland, Atlanta and Toronto, and have won their last three home openers.
OKC took three of four meetings with Portland a season ago and is 6-2 in the past eight matchups between the Northwest inhabitants.
11/02 10:48:38 ET