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Terrence Jones reflects on year, playoffs

At just 22, Terrence Jones has found out how brutal the NBA playoffs can be.

The 6-9 Houston Rockets power forward was on the floor with 0.9 seconds to go Friday against the Trail Blazers in Game 6 of the Western Conference first-round playoffs at Moda Center.

Houston had a 98-96 lead. Less than one second was keeping the Rockets from going back to Texas for Game 7.

As Jones, a former star at Jefferson High, guarded Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, he watched as Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum threw the ball in to Damian Lillard. Portland’s All-Star star point guard caught the ball and buried a 3-pointer, ending Jones’ first taste of playoff basketball.

“When I saw it go in, it was devastating,” Jones said. “Just to fight that whole game … we came out and took a lot of their punches and a lot of their runs. It’s tough when it comes down to a last possession and you lose. That’s probably the most disappointing thing.”

The series between Portland and Houston was a heavyweight bout with each side trading haymakers, and the Blazers winning 4-2. All of the games came down to the final two minutes. Three went to overtime. It was exactly how Jones had always dreamed the playoffs would be.

“This is my first time in the playoffs, but that’s what I consider playoff basketball,” he said. “We fought the whole fourth quarter and just came up short.”

The thing Jones did not expect was that the playoffs would only last six games for him.

“I thought it was going to be much longer than what it just was,” he said.

On a personal level, Jones said the playoffs were “up and down for me.”

As has been the case most of the season, Jones started the first two games of the series against Portland at power forward.

In Game 1, Jones played 30 minutes. He shot 6 of 10 from the field and finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and two assists. In Game 2, Jones played 26 minutes. He scored 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field. He also had eight rebounds and one assist.

Mostly because of Aldridge scoring 46 and 43 points in the first two games, Rockets coach Kevin McHale decided to have Jones come off the bench for the rest of the series with Omer Asik starting at power forward.

In Game 3, Jones looked out of rhythm. In 13 minutes, he missed all three of his shots, scored no points, collected two rebounds and had one assist. In Game 4, though, Jones played 22 minutes and had eight points to go along with six boards and one assist.

Jones continued to look more comfortable coming off the bench in Game 5, playing 22 minutes, scoring eight points, collecting three rebounds and recording three assists.

On Friday night, Jones played 18 minutes. He went 2 of 4 from the field and 1 of 2 from the free-throw line for five points. He added one rebound and three assists.

While the playoffs did not go the way Jones would have liked, the 2013-14 season was a breakthrough year for him.

As a rookie, Jones was rarely used. After being the No. 18 overall draft pick out of Kentucky, he played only 18 games averaging 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and one block per game. In 2013-14, Jones became a starter. He played in 76 games, averaging 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

“I grew a lot,” Jones said. “I was working hard, learning from players who have been in this league, learning from the coaching staff.”

Jones hopes to use the offseason to work on all aspects of his game.

“I want to work on my shooting and my all-around game and making sure I’m there defensively and making sure I’m there to help us get better,” Jones said. “I’m hoping I can continue to get better and continue to help my team get better.”