On good game from James Harden doesn’t erase all the wrong and bad he did for the Houston Rockets through the entire series, as the Houston Rockets somehow lost 99-98 to the Portland Trail Blazers in game 6, knocked out of the playoffs in the first round for the second straight season, while Jeremy Lin was once again put in the wrong kind of situation and didn’t really make the most of it.
A spot up shooter? Once again? Lin found a lot of success in game 5, his best in the series, because he had time to handle the ball and make decisions, not feed off the breadcrumbs Harden leaves behind. Sure, he should have done a much better job than 4-of-13 from the field for 11 points, including 1-of-6 from beyond the arc, but a head coach can’t expect to misuse a player for an entire season and then for magic to suddenly happen.
In an incredible series, it once again came down to one final shot. No overtime, but Chandler Parsons putting the Rockets two points up with 0.9 seconds left in the game should have been enough. He scrambled for the ball after James Harden missed a bad shot that bounced off the rim (wasn’t there a better shot available?), won it and hit a layup that seemed to be sending us to game 7.
But on the other end, Damian Lillard escaped both Parsons and James Harden to find himself wide open from three. I’m not sure how he had time to pull up for the shot before time expired, but the wonders of the NBA shot clock are beyond me and other people as well. Lillard hit a game winning three, sending the Blazers to their first conference semifinal in over a decade, since the days of the “Jail Blazers.”
Lillard scored 25 points, enjoying the poor defense the Rockets put on him, mostly Patrick Beverley and James Harden. One is an overrated defender, and the other has never shown much interest in defense as well. Lillard average 25.5 points per game in the series while shooting 46.4% from the field. It says something about him as a big-time player by elevating his game in the playoffs, but it also tells something about the defense he faced.
Omer Asik couldn’t contain LaMarcus Aldridge completely, as the Blazers’ leader scored 30 points, but whenever Asik came off the court (a +16 through 33 minutes) the Rockets fell apart. Kevin McHale has made weird decisions all seasons regarding rotations and lineups, and it seems that very few things that happened along the way actually taught him something, instead working on instinct instead of actually learning from what he saw.
It takes a day or two to think of how to sum up the season and what waits in the future, but it’s hard not to call this a failure. A head coach that doesn’t know how to make the best of his players, and allows a potential star like James Harden to devastate his own team for most of the playoffs. Yes, he was huge with 34 points in game 6, but where was he the rest of the time? Fingers will be pointed at Lin from several directions, but expecting anything from him beyond mediocrity after getting treated unlike anything he deserves this season would be delusional.