While a lot of the success and ascent into a playoff team this season has to do with James Harden joining the Houston Rockets, the kind of basketball he forces the team to play doesn’t always benefit them and suit the rest of the players. This time, without him on the floor, Jeremy Lin didn’t break out into some memorable performance, but he was the anchor of a different, team-oriented game that might be more suitable for the Rockets’ needs.
Before we move on to specifics – the Rockets aren’t a better team without Harden, there’s no doubt about that. The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t going to be that bad (39.7% from the field, 18 turnovers) every night. But James Harden has to be curbed down a little at times, which means Kevin McHale, who was so pleased seeing his team spread the floor and the ball, needs to do a better job in making this more than just a superstar oriented team.
We had a lot of guys play well. The ball was really moving tonight, and it was good to see that. Everybody was in tune.
Jeremy Lin was one of five players in double figures, leading the team with 15 points and 3 assists, to go with his six turnovers. Lin had more of the ball in his hand, which meant less spot-up shooting for him (1-2 from beyond the arc) and more driving to the paint, a skill we haven’t seen enough of this year because of losing the de facto point guard role to his backcourt teammate. He went to the line 8 times, making 6 of the shots.
One barometer for the Rockets playing well is Chandler Parsons and how involved he is. When they’re playing the right kind of basketball, Parsons looks so much more than an undrafted player teams regret passing on – he finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, while the defense that doesn’t always show up for Rockets games made life very hard for the Clippers, beating them 98-81.
For now, it looks like Houston will finish 7th in the West, leading to a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not a potential sweep, but no surprised faced will show up if this ends in five games. Unless it becomes more than James Harden trying to show off his abilities to his former employers, but becomes a Houston Rockets team managing to blend the individual abilities of Harden with a more shared kind of rhythm and look, meaning more minutes for Lin, and with Lin as the decision maker on the floor.