James Harden, Jeremy Lin

The Houston Rockets keep slipping with key injured players, and the combination of James Harden and Jeremy Lin isn’t getting them through this rough patch, as it seems like one of the most selfish players in the league is influencing his backcourt partner instead of it being the other way around, although the Rockets were still better off with Lin on the floor.

The Toronto Raptors handed the Rockets a third consecutive loss, beating them 107-103. The Rockets did stage a nice comeback in the fourth quarter but their defense continues to be atrocious all game long, no matter what lineup McHale tries. James Harden might be his leading scorer with 26 points this time, but the zero attention he gives to the defensive side which might have cost the game for the Rockets through some big shots from Terrence Ross is simply inexcusable.

The Jeremy Lin factor didn’t help either. Lin got more chances to have the ball in his hands and play like a point guard. It wasn’t because James Harden gave up on his point guarding duties, but because Lin didn’t limit himself to being a spot up shooter, and tried to move and do things whenever he got the ball. The problem was it wasn’t always the smartest of decisions. He finished with only 6-of-18 from the field, scoring 16 points, and adding 7 assists. Instead of influencing Harden (like we though he did earlier this season) to become a more point guard like player, there were too many moments in the game that it looked like Lin understood that his only way of getting points and noticed will be by forcing his own shots.

And yet the Rockets did play a lot better with Lin on the floor. McHale uses every excuse he has to take him out of the game, which led to some catastrophic basketball from the team, especially when James Harden was left on his own. How does Lin leave the game in the middle of the fourth quarter? Interesting coaching from Kevin McHale, which really makes no sense whatsoever, unless you believe this is all just personal and the head coach simply doesn’t like him.

The result, as you might guess, wasn’t that great. Lin did provide some great passes and assists with vision that only he has on this team, but even Houston’s good moments on offense didn’t do a world of good because whenever the Raptors needed points they got them. DeMar DeRozan was very difficult to stop, scoring 29 points. James Harden creating holes whenever he went, often caught wandering defensive areas that simply make no sense, helped the Raptors feel very comfortable for most of the game.

The Rockets will eventually clinch a playoff spot, but it’s getting dangerously close to being a problem for them in terms of 4th-5th place. The Blazers are only one game behind and unless Houston start winning games with Howard soon, they might find themselves playing without home court advantage for at least one round, which sounds absurd thinking they weren’t that far from finishing third in the West.

The real problem? McHale’s solution to all of this will be giving the ball to James Harden even more than before, instead of finally realizing that Jeremy Lin, even on bad shooting nights, is a much better player to run his offense.

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