Blazers avenge first-round playoff loss to Suns

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Nicolas Batum was characteristically humble about his offensive outburst in the Trail Blazers' season opener.

Batum had 19 points and 11 rebounds in Portland's 106-92 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night. The Blazers outscored the Suns 18-1 over the final 5:44, and Batum had 11 of those points -- including three 3-pointers.

The 6-foot-8 Frenchman, who averaged 10.1 points last season, was asked afterward if this is how he was going to play all season.

"I'll try," he said with a grin.

Brandon Roy added 24 points for the Blazers, who fell to Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Steve Nash had 26 points for the Suns, who trailed most of the first half before going ahead in the third quarter. Nash's turnaround jumper pushed the lead to 76-71.

Portland tied it at 86 on rookie Armon Johnson's jumper with 8:15 to go. After Andre Miller's 19-foot jumper, Batum hit a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper to make it 97-91 with 3:14 left.

Batum added two more 3-pointers, including his final one with 22.9 seconds left.

"We didn't quite have enough tonight but I'm optimistic that one of these days it's going to click for us and we'll be a good team," Nash said.

The Suns and Nash no longer have power forward Amare Stoudemire, who joined the New York Knicks as a free agent in the offseason.

Stoudemire averaged 23.3 points, partnering with Nash on the pick-and-roll that was the Suns' signature. And it was clear the team was still adjusting.

"You'll see a lot of things in the next month from us until we get things figured out," coach Alvin Gentry said before the game.

Roy said he didn't really notice Stoudemire's absence until the fourth quarter.

"Those plays where he and Nash like to get into that halfcourt and kill you with that pick-and-roll, you could tell that was missing tonight," Roy said.

The Blazers led by as many as seven points in the first half, but the Suns closed the gap late to make it 50-46 at the break.

Jason Richardson's fast-break layup put the Suns up 58-57 in the third quarter, but Wesley Matthews put Portland back in front with a layup and a free throw, and Rudy Fernandez added a 3-pointer to make it 67-62.

The Suns stormed back and Richardson's 3-pointer made it 70-69. Phoenix led by as many as six points until Johnson, who finished his NBA debut with six points, tied it.

Richardson finished with 22 points.

"We ran out of gas a little bit offensively," Nash said.

While they lost Stoudemire, Phoenix acquired forwards Hakim Warrick, Hedo Turkoglu, and Josh Childress in the offseason. The team also re-signed Channing Frye.

Turkoglu, who struggled last season with Toronto, was booed loudly by the Rose Garden fans. The 10-year veteran from Turkey was wooed by Portland and even made a well-publicized visit to the city before abruptly going to the Raptors.

Turkoglu, expected to help the Suns adjust without Stoudemire, collected a pair of quick fouls in the first quarter before Gentry sat him. He finished with six points.

Childress, who broke the tip of his right index finger in the preseason, nevertheless made his debut with the Suns and scored four points. Warrick had 10.

The Blazers made several roster moves just before the opener, including the addition of free-agent center Fabricio Oberto on Monday.

Oberto, who played last season for Washington, had not been expected to play because he didn't know his new team, but he logged about three minutes in the first half.

Oberto was brought in to help the Blazers in the middle while centers Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden continue to rehab from knee surgeries last season.

Przybilla could return by mid-November, but there was no timetable for Oden, the former No. 1 draft pick.

The Blazers have started Marcus Camby at center since last season, but were hurt when his expected backup, Jeff Pendergraph, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.

Pendergraph was waived on Monday to make room for Oberto. The Blazers also traded guard Jerryd Bayless to New Orleans in exchange for a future conditional first-round draft pick.

Injuries hurt the Blazers last season. Even though they won 50 games, Portland players missed the second-most games in the league, behind Golden State.

Game notes
The Blazers visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, the first of a season-opening, four-game road trip. While coach Nate McMillan notes it was a bit "strange" to start a road trip on the back end of a back-to-back, he shrugged: "You've got to play 82 and you've got to play the schedule." ... Portland has won its last 10 home openers.