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Matthews calls out teammates after Blazers' seventh straight setback

There was too much James Harden and, in the mind of Wesley Matthews, too little heart shown by the Trail Blazers Friday night at the Rose Garden.

Harden put up the numbers — 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists — as Houston pile-drived Portland 116-98 in a contest that seemed a mismatch almost from the opening tip.

The Rockets (43-33), fighting for positioning in the Western Conference playoffs, won their fourth straight game.

The Trail Blazers (33-43), on a night when their elimination from the playoffs became official, matched a season high with their seventh straight loss.

That didn’t set well with Matthews, whose competitive fervor can’t be questioned even on nights when his performance is lacking.

After a game in which his shot was errant — 1 for 11 on 3-point attempts, 6 for 19 from the field — Portland’s starting guard seemed to call out his teammates.

“We need to play with some pride, man,” Matthews said as he met with the media afterward. “I’m trying not to cuss right now, but we have to play with some damn heart. This is crazy. This is ridiculous.”

Told that the Blazers’ playoff chances had reached zero, Portland’s starting shooting guard shook his head.

“It’s not even about that,” Matthews said. “We have to play like this is the blessing that it is. We’re over here taking it for granted.

“We need to check our hearts at the door. We have six games left and we’ve lost seven in a row. we’re better than that.”

It’s hard to win a game, a reporter mentioned, when a team is 2 for 20 on treys, as were the Blazers Friday night.

“I’ll take the blame for that,” Matthews said. “I’m supposed to be able to knock down 3s. I’ve been off a little bit.

“But we can’t give up 11 or however many we gave up, either (the Rockets made 12 3-pointers). We have to knock down shots, but at the same time, we have to play some damn defense. We have to play with some heart and some toughness. Who cares if we’re not in the damn playoffs?”

Others in the Portland camp weren’t in complete agreement with Matthews on his assessment of the Blazers’ woes.

“We played hard,” coach Terry Stotts said. “It wasn’t lack of effort. We didn’t necessarily play well. Sometimes people comfuse lack of effort for not playing well.

“It’s not just one thing. You hate to come away with a loss. You hate to give up 63 points in the first half. You hate to have mental breakdowns at the end of the third quarter. We should be past some of these things.”

LaMarcus Aldridge saw things more in line with Stotts than Matthews.

“The effort was there,’ said the All-Star forward, who made his return after missing four games with a sprained ankle, going for 32 points and 13 rebounds. “We have to play smarter. We had a lot of brain farts tonight, a lot of miscommunications, a lot of moments where we had it down, then we had a turnover or a bonehead play. (The Rockets) capitalized really well.”

Told Matthews said he wanted to address his teammates before Saturday’s practice session, Aldridge nodded.

“He’s one of those guys who leads,” Aldridge said. “That’s fine. Anybody talking right now is fine.

“But guys are trying to play hard. We just need to play smarter. I don’t question anyone playing harder. I definitely want guys to play a lot smarter.”

NOTES: The third game of Portland’s five-game homestand is Sunday against Dallas. ... Blazer forward Nicolas Batum, who missed his second game with a shoulder injury, won’t play against the Mavericks. When will he return to action? “Maybe Wednesday” against the Los Angeles Lakers, he said after the game. ... Aldridge, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, said the ankle felt “OK. At the end, it was a little tender, but other than that, it felt good.” ... Aldridge moved past Mychal Thompson into seventh place on the Portland career scoring list with 9,221 points. ... Aldridge leads the NBA with seven games of at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. Miami’s James has six. ... Aldridge, who tied a career high with his 36th double-double of the campaign, had 24 points and 10 rebounds by halftime. The last player to achieve such numbers before intermission was Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace in January 2010.

Aldridge on Harden: “He makes that team go. I’m not saying he’s LeBron (James), but he’s like LeBron in that he likes to pass the ball, he’s so good at the pick-and-roll and he’s so hard to guard.” ... Portland point guard Damian Lillard was honored as the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the fifth straight month — the first time a rookie has swept a conference award through the first five months of a season since the Clippers’ Blake Griffin in 2010-11. “I’m happy for him,” Stotts said. “He’s very deserving. He had his best month of the season in March. It’s quite an accomplishment for him.” ...Stotts, asked for his take on 7-1 rookie Meyers Leonard’s potential for shooting the 3-pointer: “I haven’t emphasized it with him, because there are a lot of things he can work on before that. But it wouldn’t surprise me at some point of his career that becomes part of his repertoire.” ... Portland rookie Will Barton had one of his most productive games of the season, scoring nine points with six rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes off the bench.

Houston forward Terrence Jones went scoreless in 14 minutes after playing his best game of the season, totaling 14 points and 12 rebounds in the Rockets’ 112-102 win at Sacramento on Wednesday. “He played very well for us (against the Kings),” coach Kevin McHale said of the 6-9 rookie out of Portland’s Jefferson High. “I liked a lot of the stuff Terrence was doing five or six weeks ago. He started grasping everything we were doing and was getting way more in tune with what we were asking him to do. But he messed up his thumb, and couldn’t even handle the ball for a couple of weeks. We sent him down to the D-League and he had three or four really good games. We brought him up, threw him out there and he did great.” ... It was the 20th time this season that Houston, which averages 106.0 points, scored 116 or more. ... the Rockets won the battle in fast-break points 28-14.