Granted, expectations are low. Not many NBA experts—even fans—expect this team to make the playoffs. A 93-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the preseason opener brought much joy to the fanbase as they will take away any positives in what could be a season of struggle.
However, the first month brings a lot of storylines to watch. Here are five games to mark on your calendar before December, Blazer fans:
1. Wednesday, Oct. 31: Los Angeles Lakers @ Portland, 7 p.m. PT
Reason: What better way to kick off the season than against Public Enemy No. 1 in Portland?
The Lakers always bring the best out of Blazer fans. There is a long history between these two teams, including the inability of Los Angeles to sustain any success in the Rose Garden.
Since the Lakers drafted Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft, they are 6-24 during the regular season at Portland (via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times). Dropping that record to 6-25 would be a huge jumpstart for a young Blazers team against Kobe, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.
2. Friday, Nov. 2: Portland @ Oklahoma City Thunder, 5 p.m. PT
Reason: A quick turnaround sends the Blazers to Oklahoma City, where they take on the defending Western Conference champions two days later.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have made the Thunder the team to beat in the West. Last season, the Blazers upset OKC on the road with a 103-93 victory. The tandem of Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum were a tremendous tandem in limiting Durant offensively.
Now the responsibility falls on Batum‘s shoulders. The matchup of rookie point guard Damian Lillard against Westbrook will also be intriguing to watch.
3. Monday, Nov. 5: Portland @ Dallas Mavericks, 5 p.m. PT
Reason: The game will mark a return of Blazers head coach Terry Stotts to Dallas, where he was an assistant under Rick Carlisle during the Mavs‘ 2011 championship run.
Carlisle said it was “a great hire for a great franchise” (via Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com) when the Blazers brought on Stotts.
Will Portland’s new head coach be able to pull out a win over his former team? It will be interesting to watch.
4. Thursday, Nov. 8: Los Angeles Clippers @ Portland, 7:30 p.m. PT
Reason: The Clippers certainly made a huge splash in the offseason, adding Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, Willie Green and Ronny Turiaf to an already explosive roster.
Crawford makes his return to Portland after a subpar stint last season with the Blazers. But the matchup to watch will be LaMarcus Aldridge against Blake Griffin—two of the best power forwards in the game today.
Lillard‘s trial by fire continues as he goes up against Chris Paul, the starting point guard for Team USA in this summer’s Olympics.
5. Friday, Nov. 23: Minnesota Timberwolves @ Portland, 7 p.m. PT
Reason: It’s a sight that Blazer fans had either hoped or not hoped to see.
Brandon Roy makes his return to the Rose Garden for the first time as an opposing player and a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. It is a game all Blazer fans should have marked on their calendars.
Roy, who many thought would eventually have his No. 7 jersey hanging in the rafters, will play his first game in Portland since the 2010 NBA playoffs. His lasting impression for many fans was the huge comeback performance in Game 4 against Dallas.
I, for one, am glad he is back. On the other hand, a classic Roy finish to give the Wolves a victory would be absolutely heartbreaking to watch.
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