Like in most comebacks from the Houston Rockets this season, most of the attention and credit went to James Harden. There’s no doubt that his ability to create something out of nothing deserves some sort of applause but the downside of this happens to be ignoring everyone else who helped, and mainly Jeremy Lin with a fantastic fourth quarter that once again will be pushed down the pecking order, just like Kevin McHale likes it.
The Rockets came away with a 111-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans thanks to a huge fourth quarter (39-22), coming back from 12 points down early on in the period. This win was a must considering how close the Portland Trail Blazers have gotten to them in the battle between the two for the fourth spot in the playoffs and home court advantage for the first series in the postseason. It brought back Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley from their injury recovery, as the two probably played a bit more than McHale would have liked.
Howard had 13 points and 6 rebounds in 29 minutes, while Patrick Beverley went straight back into the lineup to score 20 points, showing a hot hand from beyond the arc, all of them coming in the fourth quarter after having a very rough time in the early goings. He played for 33 minutes and has shown an impressive recovery from a Meniscus tear in his right knee, which might mean bad news for Russell Westbrook if the two teams meet again in the postseason.
Harden was the leading scorer, as usual. He finished with 33 points and 13 assists, completely swalloing the point guard role, leaving hardly any time for both Beverley and Jeremy Lin to handle the ball. Omri Casspi starting instead of Chandler Parsons helped strengthened that point, although Casspi didn’t do too well on his catch and shoot role, finishing with 2 points, both coming from the line.
Harden scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to go with his five assists, and just like the rest of the team, it seemed like the urgency propelled him to simply play better basketball than we saw from him earlier in the game. He was a perfect 10-for-10 from the line, and all of his previous turnovers and mistakes were forgotten as he finished very strongly, which is something the Rockets rely on a bit too much, coming to show during their less successful performances.
Lin? He is back to the bench, because Beverley gets the lineup spot next to Harden. Lin still got 31 minutes, scoring 18 points on an almost perfect shooting night: 6-of-8 from the field, 1-of-1 from three and 5-of-5 from the line. He had four steals, all of them coming in the fourth quarter. He might not have scored as much as Harden, but the Rockets’ runs in the final 12 minutes began with a much improved defense from the team and especially from Lin.
But people forming public opinions about the team and players disregard small actions and focus on numbers, especially points. They’ll say Harden was responsible for the comeback. He was, but not alone, and might be not being the major factor in it. They’ll say Beverley’s defense and energy was the key to the stops, which it wasn’t. They’ll say Howard’s presence helped out, which it didn’t really. They’ll probably forget that Jeremy Lin was the team’s best defender of the night. It remains to be seen if the coaching staff picked up on that.