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Portland guards shoot well, but it's not enough as Blazers begin road trip on losing note

OLADIPOThe skinny: Guards played well — Damian Lillard, Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons — but the Trail Blazers didn't quite have enough to beat the Houston Rockets at the start of their six-game road trip Thursday.

Injuries continue to affect the Blazers. Already without three starters, Derrick Jones Jr., who's already battling a left thigh contusion, went out with a left foot sprain.

The Blazers (9-8) led by 20 points, 30-10, early. Houston chipped away at the deficit and eventually went on a run to lead by 13 points in the third quarter, 86-73.

But with Trent Jr. hitting a lot of 3-pointers, the Blazers rallied to lead on Enes Kanter's tip-in, 96-95.

But, John Wall made two free throws and, after the Rockets forced a turnover from Lillard, P.J. Tucker's offensive tip made it 99-96. Later, Victor Oladipo drove for a layup and, after Trent Jr. opted to drive to the basket rather than the Blazers finding a 3-point attempt, Christian Wood's free throw made it 102-98 with 15.4 seconds left.

It was a big free throw, because Simons hit a 3-pointer, followed by a couple Eric Gordon free throws that put Houston up 104-101 with 2.1 seconds left. The Blazers found Simons on the inbounds pass for the final shot, and not Lillard, and Simons shot an air ball.

Lillard had 30 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and added nine assists. Trent hit seven second-half 3-pointers to add 23 points. Simons had four 3-pointers and 14 points. The Blazers hit 17 of 41 3-pointers (.415).

Kanter added 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Oladipo had 25 points, Wood 22 points and 12 rebounds and John Wall 20 points for Houston (8-9), which has won four consecutive games, all after the trade of James Harden to Brooklyn.

Jones status: Coach Terry Stotts said X-rays on Jones' foot came back clear.

Fans!: There were actually (socially distanced) fans in the stands at Houston's Toyota Center. The Moda Center in Portland hasn't been able to host fans, yet.

It was announced attendance of 3,154, a sellout.

Barkley comments: TNT analyst Charles Barkley, who notably made a bet on the Blazers to make the NBA Finals, had some funny comments about Portland's defense during Thursday's TNT broadcast.

"They can't stop a runny nose," he said after the game, about Portland's defense.

He added, at halftime: "They don't play with a sense of urgency. They're just out there playing basketball. Been playing that way all season."

McCollum tweets: CJ McCollum, along with Jusuf Nurkic out injured for awhile, tweeted throughout Thursday's game. He tweeted at one point, "Bench is going to be crucial for this trip and beyond." The Rockets' bench outscored Portland's 33-18 (with Simons scoring 14 of the 18).

Then again, it's a thin bench because of the absence of three starters — Robert Covington (concussion) also sat out Thursday's game — and Jones hurting. (Not to mention Zach Collins' season-long injury).

McCollum's Twitter handle, by the way, is @CJMcCollum.

Next up: The Blazers play at Chicago, 5 p.m. Saturday. The Bulls rallied from 20 points down to beat Portland at Moda Center, 111-108, on Jan. 5.


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