Like a trail of breadcrumbs left for Kevin McHale to pick up and understand the hints, each time he uses Jeremy Lin the way he’s supposed to be used, the Houston Rockets look like a very good basketball team. It doesn’t matter that Aaron Brooks starred for the team in their 112-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it does mean something that James Harden didn’t play, and unless something is done about his playing style the potential of this squad will continue to be wasted.
Harden might miss a few more games, and that’s not good for the Rockets. No matter what his ills are, Harden is a rare scoring talent, with selfishness and defensive laziness coming along with it. Right coaching can force a player to change, but everything we’ve seen from McHale over the last couple of years suggests his mind is made up about who should be leading this team, no matter how many problems it causes.
Meanwhile, with his hands forced, it got out one of the better performances from the Rockets this season. Aaron Brooks wowed off the bench scoring 26 points, going into the game averaging only 2.8. Patrick Beverley, who started next to Lin (or is it the other way around?) scored 17, but Houston were better with him on the bench, as they usually are. Lin had a strong performance against Ricky Rubio, scoring 19 points and adding 5 assists, which maybe will prevent McHale from sitting him on the bench for prolonged moments like he did in the loss against Dallas.
Dwight Howard, despite scoring only 11 points, was a big reason for the Rockets looking good on defense when it mattered the most and dominating the boards, making up for the team’s 23 turnovers. He grabbed 13 rebounds and gave up on plenty of shots, finishing with 4 assists, so the Rockets could hit 54.8% of their three point attempts, moving the ball like they usually do when Harden isn’t playing or isn’t forcing himself on the team’s style.
Terrence Jones had one of his best games in Rockets uniform, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. In a game featuring talented teams without a lot of defense, Jones and especially Howard were the X-factor that made the difference, having someone to rally around, which the Timberwolves don’t.
Kevin McHale – I told our guys we have to play more efficiently and a little bit smarter. We’ve got to create more space for each other on the floor so we can attack.
McHale loves preaching about spacing and ball movement, but everything he does as a head coach when it comes to the Harden-Beverley-Lin decision making suggests otherwise. It’s hard to understand why something so clear to see – taming Harden and getting the ball out of his hands for more possessions each game, an excellent thing for the Rockets in the long term, just keeps blowing by him.
Jeremy Lin being a backup doesn’t matter that much if he plays over 30 minutes a night. Ignoring his talents is a more serious offense, which will keep costing the Rockets wins and consistency unless someone tells McHale to think straight.