Hollinger's PER Diem: Oct. 29, 2008

Greg Oden is the headline, obviously, and for selfish reasons, I hope he's back soon. (Reporting on Joel Przybilla versus Yao Ming on Nov. 6 won't have quite the same ring to it.)

But while we wait for the MRI results, let's look at the other half of the equation from Tuesday night: The Lakers looked good in their 96-76 win. In particular, their defensive intensity seemed a few notches higher, helping to keep the Blazers out of the paint and limiting them to 34.5 percent shooting.

Yes, some of the damage was self-inflicted -- such as a late-second-quarter shot-clock violation when the Blazers never advanced the ball inside the 3-point line -- but the Lakers' defensive numbers from Tuesday night were mighty impressive. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in particular seemed dialed in at that end Tuesday night.

In addition to the limited shooting percentage, Portland mustered only 14 free-throw attempts; the Trail Blazers scored only 76 points in 91 attempts. That gives L.A. a sizzling defensive efficiency mark of 83.5.

It's only one game, but the Lakers' important development is worth watching. If L.A. defends this well all year, it will be nigh unbeatable because you know this group will score its share of points. Although I didn't pick the Lakers to win the Western Conference, I do believe this team has the highest ceiling of any club in basketball. In the opener, at least, the Lakers seemed much closer to reaching that ceiling than I'd presumed.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.