After almost three weeks of an injury keeping him out for most of the time, it would have been wiser to give Jeremy Lin less than 37 minutes in the 111-104 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. A good game from the point guard finally playing in his position was one among a few wasted away by head coach Kevin McHale who simply shows no ability to change, think or react to things during a game.
Lin finished with 20 points in one of his better games in quite some time, finally getting a chance to play like a point guard. Chandler Parsons had 21 and Dwight Howard continues to enjoy James Harden being out of the picture with 29 points, averaging 32 in the last two games, with the Rockets falling to 18-11.
The problem? Defense just wasn’t there, especially when it came to stopping Dirk Nowitzki with 31 points. Is it surprising that Nowitzki was bound to give the team trouble? Not really, but McHale seemed stunned. His answer? Instead of coming ready with a defensive scheme that involves more than just changing the man guarding Nowitzki, which included putting Lin on him for a few possessions, there was nothing in the think tank. No double teams and traps, taking advantage of the Mavs have quite a few players who are almost non-factors on offense; no one trying to corner him and narrow his vision for passing. Just putting someone on him that will hopefully disrupt his shooting. Nice plan.
As for Lin? This game wasn’t an example of the misuse. McHale didn’t have a choice but to play him for long minutes, getting some very good basketball out him, which should be expected from Lin unless you really don’t believe in what he can give your team. Everything done on the offensive side went to waste due to the awful defense the Rockets put on for show. Yes, the effort from everyone except for Dwight Howard could have been better, but it has to be frustrating for players when their head coach seems as clueless as they are when it comes to dealing with a difficulty in the game.
We tried a bunch of different stuff. We tried showing and coming back. We tried staying on there. We tried running at him. Nothing seemed to work.
Sounds like a nice effort, but it really wasn’t. The Rockets, like a lot of bad defensive teams, feed on effort, or on a coaching stuff that devises the right kind of gameplan to help them out. The Rockets had neither in the loss to the Mavs, and it had nothing to do with James Harden playing or not. Sure, he would have done better than the awful shooting night Francisco Garcia was having, but defense isn’t something he really contributes to. But Harden on a bad ankle seems to be even more selfish and bullish than usual, so maybe the Rockets at least got a chance of playing the right kind offense with him resting up.
We’ve written about this more than once – The Rockets have a chance to make something special of this season – more than just making the playoffs, but actually contending for the Western conference. However, until Kevin McHale starts doing a good job as a head coach, which means using Lin the right way among the many other things he’s neglecting, simply relying on the players to sort it out isn’t going to lead them very far.