PORTLAND — During Monday morning’s shootaround, Trail Blazers interim coach Kaleb Canales said that his team was focused on playing 48 minutes of quality basketball.
Perhaps the players thought an NBA game was 51 minutes long.
It wasn’t until the 9:01 mark in the first quarter that a ball actually went through the hoop at the Rose Garden on Monday, and it wasn’t until 8:51 that Portland got on the board.
And after Houston’s 94-89 victory, the Blazers’ postseason clock might as well read 0:00.
The t’s have been crossed on Portland’s playoff exclusion with the i’s awaiting an effortless dot. The Blazers (27-31) now sit in 11th place in the Western Conference — four and a half games behind the eighth-place Nuggets with eight games to go.
While reason suggested long ago that their season would end on April 26, emotion didn’t seem to follow suit. Monday night, it did.
“Every loss is frustrating, but especially this one,” Blazers point guard Raymond Felton said. “I mean, we need every game.”
And against the Houston, they needed just about every possession. That didn’t happen.
The Rockets (32-25) took a 17-15 advantage late in the first quarter and led the rest of the game. Despite being without top scorer Kevin Martin, they connected on 46.3 percent of their field-goal attempts and 52.6 percent of their 3-point shots.
Goran Dragic led all scorers with 22 points while four of his teammates scored in double figures. Portland’s box score didn’t look nearly as balanced.
It didn’t help that the Blazers were playing without Nicolas Batum, who sat due to a left quad injury. But the players who did take the court provided nothing spectacular, with LaMarcus Aldridge leading the team with 20 points.
Jamal Crawford was next with 18, and while his going 9-for-9 from the foul line surely aided his cause in winning the league’s free-throw-shooting title (he came into the game shooting .924 from the line, three hundredths of a point worse than the Nets’ Anthony Morrow), his 4-of-14 effort from the field was not the most efficient effort.
That said, Canales argued that offense was not the problem.
“A very hard lesson for us to learn, but a very valuable one — that we have to understand that we have to get it on the defensive end of the floor, not the offensive end of the floor.”
Despite the criticism he has drawn throughout the year, Felton has actually been decent in the second half of the season for Portland and was more than effective Monday night. He scored 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting while dishing out eight assists, but played just six second-half minutes.
Asked if he thought he should have been out there longer, Felton said, “I don’t want to seem like a selfish player. … I’m not the type of player to ask coach to put me back in the game.”
The Blazers will host Golden State on Wednesday.
Marcus Camby pointed to several different faces in the crowd, then gave Kaleb Canales a massive hug in front of the Blazers’ bench.
Just a minute earlier, when he was introduced as a member of the Houston Rockets, the Rose Garden crowd gave a big cheer.
In the two years Camby was in this town, he was the most effective center the Blazers had. The fans appreciated it. And he appreciated them.
“It’s good to back in this city,” Camby said before the game. “I always felt this was a place where I could finish my career.”
Camby was traded to the Rockets just before the deadline last month in exchange for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second-round pick. While in Portland, the 38-year-old’s rebounding totals — especially rebounds a minute — were high, even if his field-goal percentage was not.
Camby described this season with the Blazers as “a roller coaster” that “was definitely difficult for everyone” and that it was “unfortunate how it played out” in terms of Nate McMillan being fired. However, he was excited about the opportunity afforded to Canales, calling the 34-year-old, “one of my favorite guys in the whole wide world.”
“He has so much passion for basketball,” Camby said of Canales. “He has a lot to give to the game.”