Basketball: LeBron James' Lakers debut ends in defeat

LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers debut ended in a 128-119 defeat at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center on Thursday night.

The three-time NBA champion switched hometown team Cleveland Cavaliers for the west coast during the offseason, signing a four-year, $154m contract with the Lakers, and his first competitive game came away to Portland.

James,
who led Cleveland to their first NBA championship in 2016 after returning to the Cavaliers from the Miami Heat, was playing for a Western Conference franchise for the first time in his career.

He has joined a roster that included promising but untested players like 20-year-old Lonzo Ball, 21-year-old Brandon Ingram and 23-year-old's Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, but coach Luke Walton has also surrounded him with veterans Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and Javale McGee.

Before the game, Portland held a moment's silence for Paul Allen, the franchise's owner and co-founder of Microsoft who died earlier this week aged 65.

James wasted little time grabbing the spotlight, scoring his first basket in the third minute with an emphatic dunk after intercepting the ball in his own half, and he added another one-handed dunk 19 seconds later. He ended up scoring 18 points in his first half as a Laker but Portland led 65-63 at half-time.

He did not add to his points tally in the third period as the Lakers missed their first 15 shots from three-point range before Josh Hart landed one late in the third period, which gave the visitors an 85-83 lead.

But Damian Lillard and Nik Stauskas took over the show for the home side in the fourth quarter as Portland continued their stranglehold over the Lakers.

The Lakers were still in touch with six minutes remaining, trailing 109-104 with six minutes left, but CJ McCollum, who chipped in 21 points, sank an 18-footer and followed with a three-pointer to make it 114-104. The Lakers got to within 124-119 in the final minute, but Stauskas sealed the outcome with two late free throws as Portland ran away with it.

James, who turns 34 in December, ended the game with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in a losing effort.

"It's not instant oatmeal. It's not that fast," James said. "It takes some time to get that chemistry where you can just close your eyes and know exactly where guys are.".

Lillard ended the game with a leading 28 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, while Stauskas sunk 24 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.

James has now lost all four of his debuts in the NBA, with the Lakers defeat adding to two losses for the Cavaliers either side of a setback in his first game with the Miami Heat.



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