PORTLAND — For the first turnover, there was fan No. 1.
“He’s the worst. Seriously. We gotta get rid of him,” a Rose Garden attendee said while exiting the building.
For the second turnover, there was fan No. 2.
“I’m not going to renew next year if they don’t get rid of him,” said an elderly Trail Blazer devotee one aisle over.
If there is one 20-something multi-millionaire that no Portland resident would want to trade lives with, it is Raymond Felton. The consensus scapegoat for the Blazers’ underachieving season before Monday’s 102-97 loss to the Jazz, he somehow became even more loathed after two mishaps in the final 90 seconds of play.
The first came with 1:27 remaining and Portland up one, when Felton bounced the ball off his foot and watched Utah’s Paul Millsap dunk it in transition. The second came with 27 seconds left, when Jamaal Tinsley popped the ball out of Felton’s hand off a suspect inbounds pass from Nicolas Batum — which again led to a Millsap jam.
The boo birds flew down en masse when Felton’s image was displayed on the jumbotron, and the Blazers would not score again. For many, it was only fitting that the man they felt responsible for the season getting away, let the basketball get away, too.
“To be a point guard, and to make a turnover like that, it’s mind-boggling for me. It’s going to be hard for me to sleep,” said Felton, who has been dubbed “Feltdown” by several fans on Twitter. “I hate it. But being a point guard, and a leader, I can take it. I’ve dealt with a lot of criticism throughout my career … there is nobody more upset than I am.”
The loss moved the Blazers (25-29) that much closer to postseason elimination. They now trail the eighth-place Rockets by four games with 12 to play.
Perhaps nobody was more visibly upset after the defeat than Blazers guard Wesley Matthews, whose post-game demeanor stood in stark contrast to his on-court performance.
Heading into the game, the former Utah player confessed to finding extra motivation in facing his old team. His play reflected that mindset, as Matthews scored a game-high 33 points while going 10 of 12 from the field and 5 of 6 from 3-point distance.
Still, the third-year player found no solace in what was likely the most efficient offensive effort of his career, saying only: “I didn’t do enough.”
It’s a silly assertion, obviously, as a 27-point game from LaMarcus Aldridge was the only Portland performance even comparable to Matthews’.
After leading by 13 points after the first quarter, the Blazers were outscored by a combined 18 over the second and third while enduring a 23-3 run by Utah (28-26).
Playing without Jamal Crawford, who sat due to tendinitis in his right knee, Portland got just 17 points from its bench, including a paltry four from the surging J.J. Hickson. The one bright spot for the second unit was Luke Babbitt, who knocked down 2 of his 3 3-pointers but played fewer than 10 minutes.
Babbitt’s late-game benching was curious given the fact that he had made 15 of his past 21 3-pointers and owns the best percentage from distance in the NBA for players that have attempted at least one long ball per game. But interim coach Kaleb Canales defended the sidelining.
“What we discuss in terms of match-ups and rotations that we’re going to take it game to game,” Canales said. “We knew tonight was a game where they had multiple bigs on the floor, sometimes you need three bigs on the floor. We believe in every single one of our players and we do going forward.”
Millsap led the Jazz with 31 points on 14 of 20 shooting. Batum pitched in 16 points for Portland, but was just 6 of 17 from the field.