Above The Rim: Opening Night.

Rockets 95, Lakers 93 Shit, it’s going to be a long season for Laker fans and for Kobe if he’s gonna have to score 45-50 a game to keep the team competitive. This wasn’t an especially crisp game on either end for both teams, and the Rockets managed to hold on and pull it out despite a 13-0 run late capped by a jumper from newly re-acquired Derek Fisher, who has a history of some clutch shots with the team. Shane Battier then knocked down a 3, and fouled Bryant to send him to the line to put the game away. Kobe got his 45, T-Mac 30, and Yao got 25 and 12 on the boards. The crowd in the Staples Center rained some boos on Kobe for his over-the-summer discontent, but they ought to know better — if you signed a contract and basically got lied to, why play company man? The same man being bitched about is the only hope of the Lakers making the playoffs (they’ll be an 8 seed, but a very lucky one.)

Spurs 106, Blazers 97 – Maddeningly efficient and crisp on defense for the most part, the Spurs started off just like it was last year — Tim Duncan with 24 and 13, Tony Parker with 19, and Manu Ginobili with 16 and 8 assists (can we stop calling him a bench player? He really isn’t.) The game was closer than expected, though, because LaMarcus Aldridge is developing right before our eyes into a heck of a post player; maybe a future All-Star. He started the season off with 27 (Martell Webster chipped in 21) and showed flashes of why he was a top pick last year.

Jazz 117, Warriors 96 – The Jazz have the Warriors’ number still from last year’s playoffs — Boozer 32 and 15 boards, Deron Williams with 24, and Andrei Kirilenko around and being a general pest defensively. Golden State will have to figure out how to defend some this season if they’re going to keep up this high-powered attack, but let’s not forget that Stephen Jackson is serving a suspension right now, so we won’t get an early sense of what’s happening until those 7 games are done.

Photo: AP/Matt Sayles

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