for this game

Bryant, Lakers pick up where they left off; Oden hurt

Oct 29, 2008 - 7:02 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Greg Oden's long-awaited introduction to the NBA turned out to be more painful than it was memorable.

Kobe Bryant scored 23 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 96-76 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Oden's injury-shortened debut and the season opener for both teams Tuesday night.

Oden, who was making his first regular-season appearance after missing all of last year because of microfracture surgery on his right knee, suffered what initially was called a right foot sprain and did not return following halftime.

"You go out there and play, and battle, and it happens," Oden said.

Portland coach Nate McMillan said Oden got the ankle taped by the training staff and tried to give it another go, before deciding to sit out the second half.

"I think he tried to run on it back (near the locker room), but it was a little too sore to return," McMillan said.

Bryant, the reigning league MVP who led the Lakers to the NBA Finals last season, picked up right where he left off. The 30-year-old guard made 9-of-17 shots from the field, adding 11 rebounds and five assists in his first extensive action since hyper-extending his right knee during a preseason game against the Charlotte Bobcats a week earlier.

Pau Gasol had 15 points and seven rebounds for Los Angeles, which held Portland to 34 percent (29-of-84) shooting.

"We made them take hurried shots with the clock running down or shots out of their comfort zone," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I think that helped."

Gasol started at power forward to make room for the return of Andrew Bynum, who struggled in his first regular-season contest since dislocating his left knee midway through last year. Bynum had eight points and three rebounds, while picking up five fouls.

Oden, the first pick in the 2007 draft, was held scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting with five rebounds in 13 minutes before exiting with the injury, which occurred with 9:20 remaining in the first quarter as he got tangled up with a Lakers' player underneath the basket. The 7-foot center underwent X-rays that came back inconclusive and will have an MRI on Wednesday.

"I just came down (on a foot) like the third play of the game," said Oden, who was wearing a full boot on the injured ankle following the game. "I tried to play the rest of the half."

It's just the latest setback for the promising young talent, who is expected to anchor the Blazers' frontline.

"We've done all we could to get him into the season (healthy)," McMillan said. "And here we are in the first game and it's a tweaked ankle. Hopefully, it isn't anything serious and in a couple days he can be back."

It wasn't the start that Oden had envisioned for himself, but he is keeping a positive outlook on the situation.

"It (stinks)," he said. "But (I'll) keep on working. It's just a little setback. I'll still be in the gym tomorrow."

The Lakers built up a 22-point first-half lead as the Blazers struggled hitting their shots. Portland managed to cut the lead to 49-41 coming out of the half, before Los Angeles turned it on.

The Lakers went on a subsequent 14-2 run, capped off by Vladimir Radmanovic's 3-pointer that pushed his team ahead, 63-43, with 4:47 left in the third. The Blazers never threatened the rest of the way.

"We worked very hard defensively and played together as a group," Gasol said. "We just had so many weapons to use and the talent needed to win."

Travis Outlaw led Portland with 18 points while rookie Rudy Fernandez, who gained notoriety for his performance with Spain during the Beijing Olympics, scored 16 points in his NBA debut.

All-Star guard Brandon Roy missed his first nine shots, before finishing with 14 points for the Blazers, who are seeking their first postseason appearance in six seasons.