While going with your best scorer is usually a pretty good idea in crunch time, making the same obvious choice a defense is prepared for again and again, which in the case of the Houston Rockets means giving the ball to James Harden instead of Jeremy Lin, results in a terrible offensive performance and a loss that could have easily been avoided.
In the fourth quarter, James Harden took seven shots, three of them from beyond the arc, one around the top of the key and three more from inside the paint. Despite pouring down 30 points during the game, his inability to convert or at least admit to himself he’s having a rough time handling Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince probably cost the Rockets the game.
Instead, there was Jeremy Lin, who finished the fourth quarter with 2-5 from the field, hitting two huge three pointers from about the same spot, including a three pointer with 1:33 left in the game, making it 78-78. He finished with 17 points and 5 assists on 5-13 from the field, as the Rockets continue to devolve on the final days of the season, falling back to the same tactics that eventually ran their course.
The Memphis Grizzlies earned a huge win, 82-78, in Houston, against a team that couldn’t set up the right kind of pace because unlike previous encounters this season, specifically their second meeting back in December, a 25 point win by the Rockets, the Grizzlies have done their homework. Kevin McHale? It seems that for not the first time, he didn’t do his. Harden wasn’t allowed to penetrate early before the defense set up, or at least not as much as he’d like, finishing with 7-24 from the field, taking too many shots with a hand in his face.
Lin isn’t perfect, but it seems that when it comes to decision making in correlation with the talent he has to make things happen on his own, he wins the equation compared with Harden, who sometimes lets the fact that he’s having a career season go to his head, not looking to take advantage of other assets the Rockets might have, even with Chandler Parsons out with an injury.
Come playoff time, the Rockets are likely to meet with the San Antonio Spurs, who might not be as good on defense as the Grizzlies are, but are just as good, probably better, especially against teams who don’t have any second or third option to offer when their offense is uncovered. For the Rockets to be more than an afterthought in the first round, they’re going to need and go back to mixing up the roles between James Harden and Jeremy Lin again, because making the obvious choice seems more and morel like making the wrong one.