5 Things I liked

Game 1, great spirit, battled back and now we look forward to Saturday. Having said that…

1) LeBron Jame’s first dunk. Welcome to LA, LBJ. That was a fine ‘how do you do?’

2) LeBron James 2nd dunk. That was the moment I really started to believe that this team could do it. We’d go on to brick every first half 3-pointer (0-15 and a lot of them wide open looks) and our defense couldn’t maintain that first quarter energy and focus. But that 2nd dunk was majestic. Came after Dame answered James’ dunk with one of his own. Those were just 2 of our whopping 70 points in the paint and 34 fast break points. I think LeBron is OK with playing fast.

3) The kids grinding their way into their games. It didn’t come easy for any of them. Hart turned in the best individual performance and Ingram had a nice 3rd quarter run to keep us close. Lonzo looked rusty and still needs to adjust to the new NBA defense rules. He, and a lot of players fouled more than expected (each team shot 29 freebies) Kuzma was better around the rim but couldn’t hit from deep until a too-late 3 at the end of the game. But to a man they never wilted and ground out decent games and helped keep us in it.

4) Rondo’s double-double. As rusty as Lonzo looked (and he did look pretty rusty) and without the public declaration that he’s on a minutes restriction (only played 19) he still generated some positives. Made both his free throws, grabbed 2 offensive boards and the three he hit looked great. All of that just needs to become the norm. In his less stellar moments he just looked a step off or out of sync. I don’t think the rust is as much physical as it is mental. He’s got a whole new team to get used to (one of the reasons I think he’s being paired more with the players he knows or the iso-centric Lance Stephenson whom anyone can dump the ball off to and see if he can generate a decent look) and his overall timing is still off. Rondo looks solid running things and I’d like to see more of the 2 of them on the court together.

5) The on-court coaching. LeBron did it a few times, Rondo was great at keeping everyone engaged in the 4th when were almost able to mount a comeback. That kind of thing is monumental for the young players to see and be a part of. That’s how you can fast-forward this process a bit. While it didn’t result in a win last night it was a great foundational moment for them to build on.

Winning in Portland last night was going to be a Herculean task one way or the other. Portland dominates on opening night, Lakers struggle in Portland, LeBron struggles in Portland, LeBron always loses his opening night contests with a new team, and Portland straight owns us right now (16-0 winning streak for Rip City). Plus it was Paul Allen night so, stacked deck to say the least. Get to .500 tomorrow.