Somehow, the Houston Rockets are still alive in this playoff series. Maybe it has something to do with Jeremy Lin diving for a ball James Harden lost and then giving it a wide open Troy Daniels to knock down the biggest shot of his career, helping the Rockets win 121-116 in overtime against the Portland Trail Blazers, getting their first win in the series, narrowing the lead down to 2-1.
One might look at the numbers and statistics and think James Harden had a great game. He did scored 37 points with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Those are great numbers, aren’t they? But Harden costs as much as he scored with his horrible defense on Damian Lillard, who scored at will when Harden was guarding him. Lillard scored 30 points, getting the bulk and easier of them when Harden was trying to guard him.
LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t explode for once. Dwight Howard did a good job on him when he was close, although there were plenty of moments when Aldridge was left wide open by the Rockets’ defense. Still, more minutes with Howard on him and not Asik meant Aldridge not dominating with his mid-range game as much, finishing with 8-of-22 from the field for 23 points. He was 6-for-19 (32%) on jump shots and 3-of-9 from the field when Howard was keeping an eye on him.
Lin? This guy isn’t about numbers. He shot 5-of-11 from the field to finish with 13 points, adding 4 rebounds and 6 assists. In hindsight, he made a mistake at the end of the fourth quarter by going for a layup he missed (maybe fouled?) that gave the Blazers the chance to tie the game and send it to overtime via a Nicolas Batum miss. But he hardly made mistakes throughout the fourth quarter and overtime, and proved once again that putting the ball in his hands with the game on the line usually means good things happening.
Troy Daniels was a surprise with three connections from beyond the arc, including that huge shot to give the Rockets the lead after they were already trailing 116-112 in overtime. Lin hit a shot off a Harden assist to get the game within two, and Harden, not bothered by his terrible shooting all throughout this game and the series, managed to hit a bad shot he recently usually misses. Harden finished with 13-of-35 from the field. He was 5-of-16 on pull up jump shots, and is 10-for-39 (26%) with that shot in the series so far.
Dwight Howard had a very good game in the paint with 24 points, 14 rebounds and being the only player to score well in the restricted area for the Rockets with 71%. He was decent from the line (4-of-6) and it might be his defense and big advantage near the rim that eventually makes the difference for the Rockets. But that won’t come if Harden keeps playing like he’s the only guy on the floor. Jeremy Lin is proving time and time again what a valuable player he is in crunch time, only to be ignored by Harden or/and by McHale when it comes to playcalling. If it wasn’t for his dive coming off a predictable Harden mistake, we would have been talking about what went wrong, instead of the hope of turning this series around.