The Houston Rockets find themselves on the verge of elimination after losing 123-120 to the Portland Trail Blazers in another overtime game between the two teams. Jeremy Lin made a huge blunder at the end of regulation, maybe blowing a win for his team, but James Harden continues to be immune when it comes to accountability for mistakes, resulting in another bad performance from him when it mattered the most.
Wesley Matthews did step out of bounds as he stripped the ball away from Lin with the Rockets leading by two points in the closing seconds of regulation. However, Lin was a bit too rash as he was trying to break away for daylight. His teammates not moving with him is another problem, but it comes down on him for losing the ball. The Rockets still had the chance to recover, but blew it on the rebound (Lin seemed a bit too enthusiastic), resulting in Mo Williams knocking down the three pointer. Lin might have done better on that sequence in stopping him as well.
But Lin gets punished for these things while James Harden, who was having a more solid performance than usual until overtime began, can make all the mistakes he wants to and remain on the court. That is what star treatment is all about. Not having Lin on the floor in overtime might have been a mistake, as the final basket by the Blazers, with the Rockets down by one and Patrick Beverley bringing the ball up court, came from a mistake by a ball handler, as Matthews once again came up with the steal to finish the game.
But there’s a lot more to this loss than just pointing fingers. Mistakes were made from the first moment of this game. The Rockets got a solid night from Dwight Howard with 25 points. Chandler Parsons had his best game of the postseason scoring 26. Troy Daniels continues to be a great surprise, as the rookie was unstoppable when left open, scoring 17 points. Harden and his hero ball attitude resulted in 28 points, although he was shooting duds in overtime.
Lin had a bad game, there’s no way getting around it. He was once again toyed around in the rotation and used in the wrong way, but you expect better from him than 4 points on 1-of-6 from the field. McHale doesn’t trust him, so every small mistake or not playing perfectly during the shorts spurts of his time on the court results in immediate benching. However, when looking beyond numbers, the Rockets were usually better with him on the floor than without.
The Blazers have a clear way of getting things done, and although defensively, overall, there are much better teams, they know how to attack the weak links in the Rockets’ offense, and enjoying the lack of thinking or versatility when it comes to a team that has playmakers a’plenty but only uses one. LaMarcus Aldridge was once again above the rest with 29 points, this time no scheme really bothering him, and three more players scored over 20: Nicolas Batum with 25, Damian Lillard with 23 and Wesley Matthews with 21 points.
The Rockets are on the verge of getting knocked out, and it’ll be because of a lot of things. Maybe one might say it came down to the refs not reviewing the out of bounds step. Maybe in a series this close luck is part of the formula, but good teams make their own luck, or do well enough not to rely on it. The Rockets have some very talented players but a head coach who doesn’t know what to do with them, resulting in what is turning out to be a massive disappointment.