Triumphant Blazers mesh in preseason start
PORTLAND — Wesley Matthews scored 17 points in 23 minutes as the Portland Trail Blazers built an early lead and beat the Utah Jazz 110-90 in the teams' preseason opener Monday night.
Nicolas Batum started in place of LaMarcus Aldridge and had 13 points in about 22 minutes and the Blazers led by as many as 24 points.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he was happy with how his team, which is full of newcomers, meshed.
"They've been good," McMillan said. "They've been like that throughout training camp, supporting each other, coming in and working, just trying to compete. Everybody knows that they want to play and that they're competing for time, but they're supportive.
"They've been a team throughout training camp and what you saw tonight has been the atmosphere from Day 1."
Aldridge missed the start of training camp after undergoing a procedure to treat for Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition which causes the ventricles of the heart to contract prematurely. He was diagnosed with the disorder in 2007.
The 6-foot-11 forward from Texas had a team-best 21.8 points along with 8.8 rebounds last season, the best of his five-year NBA career.
The Blazers head to Utah on Wednesday night for the second exhibition, the only warm-up games before the start of the lockout-shortened regular season.
Aldridge is expected to return to full-contact practice today, and coach Nate McMillan said before the game that he should be available to play on Wednesday.
Derrick Favors had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Jazz, who were without Paul Millsap (right quadriceps tendinitis). Al Jefferson, who has been bothered by a sore left hamstring, started and scored seven points, and newcomer Josh Howard played five scoreless minutes.
Utah rookie center Enes Kanter, the No. 3 overall draft pick, had six points and 10 rebounds.
"We have to have a better effort than what we demonstrated," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "Sometimes you fall into the trap of thinking it's an exhibition season and you have time — we don't have time to waste games. We can't waste minutes on the floor."
The Blazers jumped out to a 26-13 lead in the first quarter on Batum's driving finger-roll layup that drew cheers from the Rose Garden crowd.
Portland pushed the margin to 20 points when Matthews' layup made it 54-32. The Blazers led 54-42 at the half.
Matthews' dunk midway through the third quarter made it 67-54, before new arrival Jamal Crawford hit a jumper in the fourth to make it 88-65.
"I definitely had the nervous jitters at first," Crawford said. "But I think as the game went on I got more comfortable. The crowd was so welcoming."
New point guard Raymond Felton, acquired in a draft-day trade from Denver in exchange for Andre Miller, had nine points for the Blazers.
Portland's five newcomers all made their first shots.
Portland is still adjusting to the loss of All-Star guard Brandon Roy, who abruptly retired before the start of training camp because of knee problems. The Blazers recently used the amnesty clause to waive Roy, which helped them sign Crawford, winner of the 2010 Sixth Man award with Atlanta.
Portland opens the regular season at home on Dec. 26 against Philadelphia.
The Jazz, who finished 39-43 and missed the playoffs last season, open on Dec. 27 against the Lakers at Staples Center.
"We have to get better quickly," Jazz guard Devin Harris said. "We've had better efforts in practice, and we just need to translate it to the game."