PORTLAND, Ore. â LeBron James made sure that his first points with the Los Angeles Lakers were emphatic, soaring for a dunk that got plenty of fans at Moda Center out of their seats.
The rest of his evening did not go so smoothly.
The Portland Trail Blazers spoiled Jamesâs much-anticipated debut for the Lakers on Thursday by pulling away with a 128-119 victory in the regular-season opener for both teams.
James, who signed a four-year, $154 million deal to join the Lakers in July, finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists in a game that was both chaotic and entertaining. The Blazers got an unexpected boost from Nik Stauskas, who somehow managed to outshine James, a four-time N.B.A. most valuable player, by scoring 24 points off the bench.
The Lakers struggled with their outside shooting, finishing 7 of 30 from 3-point range.
James arrived two-and-a-half hours before the game and went through a metal detector before entering the arena. (LeBron: Just like us.) He proceeded to embark on his usual pregame routine: the stretching and the shooting, along with all the mental preparation that has come to define his career nearly as much as the late-game dramatics and the championships.
Lakers Coach Luke Walton has kept his teamâs goals this season close to the vest, and he did so again before Thursdayâs game â though he did acknowledge that he had talked to James about them. But that was about as far as Walton was willing to go.
âThatâs nothing Iâm going to share with you guys,â Walton told reporters. âBut weâve talked.â
Few pundits expect the Lakers to vie for a championship this season. They are too young, their chemistry is too raw and the Western Conference is already loaded with contenders, a batch of heavyweights led by the Golden State Warriors, who are prohibitive favorites to win it all again.
But James is a force, and he seemed to send a statement early in Thursdayâs opener. In about 9 minutes of playing time before he took his first breather, he collected 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, 3 rebounds and an assist.
But the rest of his night was full of challenges. He was called for his third foul with just over 6 minutes left in the second quarter and went to the bench. His absence could have been problematic for the Lakers, who were already trailing by double digits. But his teammates picked up the slack, and the Blazers led by just 2 at halftime.
The Lakers missed their first 15 3-point attempts before Josh Hart, who was terrific for them the bench, connected from long range for an 85-83 lead late in the third quarter.
But Portland was solid down the stretch behind their All-Star backcourt of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (21 points).
Before the game, the Blazers honored Paul G. Allen, their longtime owner, with a moment of silence. Allen, a founder of Microsoft, died Monday from complications of non-Hodgkinâs lymphoma.