Lakers off to first 0-2 start since 1990


PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- It didn't matter to the Portland Trail Blazers that the Lakers just weren't themselves.

Rasheed Wallace scored 28 points to lead the Portland to a season-opening 102-90 victory over shorthanded Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

Already playing without Shaquille O'Neal and Rick Fox, the Lakers were further hobbled when they lost Kobe Bryant for several minutes in the first half after a hard fall.

"It takes away nothing for us,'' Blazers guard Derek Anderson said of the win over Portland's postseason nemesis. "We played real tough tonight regardless of the situation.''

The Blazers took advantage of Bryant's brief absence, turning a 3-point deficit into a 7-point lead.

"Before Kobe's injury, we were playing the way we should play and can play,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "That shouldn't have affected us to that level, but it did.''

Bryant returned and led the Lakers with 25 points and 10 rebounds. He said the injury wasn't serious and he didn't expect to miss a game.

The Trail Blazers handed Los Angeles its second straight loss. It's the first time since 1990 the Lakers have opened a season with two losses.

The Trail Blazers built their lead as high as 22 points after
Bryant returned, when Wallace's 3-pointer made it 56-34, and went
into halftime with a 60-40 advantage.

Wallace put the Blazers up 77-54 with another 3-pointer late in
the third quarter.

O'Neal started the season on the injured list after surgery on
his right big toe, while Fox was serving a six-game suspension for
fighting with Sacramento's Doug Christie.

That meant the always-anticipated matchup between O'Neal and Portland center Arvydas Sabonis would have to wait.

The 7-foot-1, 335-pound O'Neal is expected to miss at least
seven games.

Sabonis is returning to the NBA this season after taking a year
off. One of the reasons the Trail Blazers wanted the 7-foot-3
Lithuanian back was to defend against O'Neal and some of the West's
other big men, including Sacramento's Vlade Divac and Houston
newcomer Yao Ming.

In three of the four games that the Lakers played against the Trail Blazers last season, O'Neal averaged 33 points and 14.3 rebounds.

Sabonis came off the bench to start the second quarter and was met with a standing ovation from many of the fans.

Shortly after Sabonis' appearance, veteran Scottie Pippen also
came off the bench.

Pippen, a 16-year veteran who played under Lakers coach Phil
Jackson when both were with the Chicago Bulls, missed the entire
preseason after recovering from offseason knee injury.

Pippen contributed nine points, while Sabonis had six points and
seven rebounds in 10 minutes.

"Having Sabonis back is a real plus,'' Portland coach Maurice
Cheeks said. "We just have to put the ball in his hands and really
not worry about running plays. As you saw tonight, if guys keep
moving, he will find them.''

The Lakers last visited the Rose Garden back on April 28, when they capped a three-game sweep of the Blazers in the first round with a 92-91 victory.

The Lakers opened their season with an 87-82 loss at home to the
San Antonio Spurs.

"We have a lot of new guys and our main cog (O'Neal) is
missing,'' Lakers forward Robert Horry said. "All we need to do is
get better with those guys and keep playing.''

Game notes
The Trail Blazers hired former Blazer Gary Grant as an assistant coach. Grant played for Portland from 1997-2001. Over a 13-year career, he averaged 7.9 points and 5.5 assists per game.
... It is the third straight season the Trail Blazers have played the Lakers in their opener. Portland dropped last season's opener, 98-87, at Staples Center. ... Only six teams have started 0-2 (or worse) and gone on to win the NBA championship. The last was the 1990-91 Chicago Bulls -- coached by Jackson. ... The Trail Blazers' new mascot, Blaze the mountain lion, made his official debut.