It was a chance for the Trail Blazers to set a tone, while beginning a run that includes 10 out of their next 12 games at home -- against beatable teams.
And a chance to show that this season is just NOT going to be like last year -- when the Portland rollercoaster ride featured wins against some of the best teams in the league and losses to some of the worst.
Well, after just seven games, the Trail Blazers have beaten the defending champion Lakers on the road and, after Tuesday night, lost to the COVID-19-depleted and very young Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls recovered from a 20-point, first-half deficit to catch the Blazers in the fourth quarter and beat them 111-108.
The Trail Blazers did everything right in the first quarter and were passable in the second period. But then things fell apart after that. Remember those nasty third quarters last season?
This was a replay.
And Coach Terry Stotts, who makes a habit of shielding his players from criticism in almost all cases, did not cover for them this time.
“We lost this in the second half,” Stotts said. “Chicago outplayed us. They played harder than us. We let down our guard and gave up 66 points in the second half after having an outstanding first half, defensively.”
In the first quarter, the Trail Blazers made their first four shots -- all of them three-pointers -- and went 8-15 from long distance in the period. The Bulls, meanwhile, were 8-26 and 2-10. And Portland won the rebound battle 17-10.
But at the end of the game, the Trail Blazers were beaten 52-46 in the rebounding department and outshot from three-point range -- 39 percent to 37.3 percent.
It was an amazing turnaround.
“Chicago played harder, and they got life,” Stotts said. “They got confidence. They made shots and we got a little tight with our shots.”
Stotts was asked if he was frustrated.
“It is frustrating,” he said. “And, you know, this is a game that we should have won and Chicago deserved it because they kept playing. They played harder.
“This is a game that we showed in the first half how we're supposed to play and we didn't play the way we needed to play the entire game.
“Last year, and I don't like to harp on last year because a lot of players… it is two different teams, but we had a tendency to let up last year in the third quarter, and we did it again tonight,
“I was hoping that we had turned the corner with that.”
That’s really the problem. In a season that promised change, no corner has yet been turned. After seven games, this team is 3-4 and just gave a game away after blowing a 20-point lead.
Is seven games a small sample size? Sure. But maybe not when it begins to look like a clone of last season.