Another game, another missed opportunity for the Portland Trail Blazers. But this one was a little different.
Some good things happened. As a team, Portland nearly pulled out a come-from-ahead-and-behind win.
The Trail Blazers led by 20 points in the first quarter and that lead was gone before halftime. They trailed by 3 at the half, by 13 in the third quarter and by 9 at the onset of the fourth quarter.
Yet, they fought back and led by 1 with 3:51 to play in the game. But on the next five possessions after that, they missed four shots and had a turnover.
The Houston Rockets ended up with a 104-101 win and it was a very difficult road loss for the Trail Blazers. Portland played with a consistently high effort but couldn’t get the ball to go in at key times and couldn’t get to the foul line often enough (just eight tries split between only two players, Damian Lillard and Enes Kanter).
And what made it a difficult loss is this may have been one of the Trail Blazers’ best collective efforts of the season.
Short-handed still, with Robert Covington out and Derrick Jones sidelined during the game, Portland got valuable contributions from just about everyone who played.
“I thought it was a good effort by everybody,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “It was a great start. It was a great finish. We came up short.
“We had our chances in the fourth quarter, made a nice comeback and really competed. We were right there. It's tough. They're a good team, playing at home, but I was proud. I was pleased with how we played.”
Jones departed with a left foot sprain in the second half but was on his way to one of his best performances. He had 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in 26:54.
Kanter had 13 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks.
Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent combined to go 11-22 from three-point range and both contributed big shots down the stretch of the game.
And of course, Lillard had another big game with 30 points and 9 assists. And he was proud of the way his team fought back. As a unit.
“I think it's a positive thing that it wasn't just me making a bunch of shots or just, you know, some crazy run,” Lillard said. “We got stops. GT made shots, Ant made shots. Enes got rebounds and extra possessions. Hoody hit a shot.
“It was like a collective getting back into the game… I think that's what you want to see when the team is dealing with the things we're dealing with. You want to see a collective effort. You want to see everybody contribute.
“You want to see the team play in a way that will win and I know for me, I just try not to go and be the hero. I try to dominate the game without making it about me or going out there and forcing myself to have to try to do everything.”
And even though a lot of things worked Thursday night in Houston, the score came out the wrong way for the Trail Blazers.
But for a lot of reasons, it was an important game and an important effort. And with five more outings left on this trip, the important thing is to carry it all forward.