For the second straight game, the Houston Rockets lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder by 3 points. Jeremy Lin had another one that he won’t be too proud of, but there’s a good chance that without him the team would have done better – Lin played injured, leaving the game quite early looking quite limited (At best) during the time he did spend on the floor.
Lin was injured during game 2 of the series in his chest. It’s clear he isn’t able to dribble the ball too well or be as elusive with the ball (when James Harden actually gives him the ball), but he did put up decent numbers in his 20 minutes of game 2, scoring 7 points on 3-7 shooting.
In game 3? Lin scored only 2 points in 18 minutes of playing time, had only 1 assist on 1-6 from the field, and the worst number of all was his -23 for the team during his time on the court. Not only couldn’t he really contribute offensively, but his defense was worse than usual, and the Rockets did better without him on the floor.
The Rockets have a chance to make this series a tighter one with Russell Westrbook out, although the numbers suggest that they’re better with Kevin Durant alone on the floor than with both of them on it together. That does come out of a rather small sample size, so in time, with Durant forced to play over 45 minutes each night, expect that trend to change. The big athletic advantage the Thunder had at that position is gone, in any case, with Reggie Jackson manning the starting position for now.
But it doesn’t mean Lin will be the one to make the most of it. With his chest bruise looking quite troubling and limiting to him (especially after getting another scratch from Kevin Durant while trying to call for a timeout), it seems that the three-guard lineup will have to continue, but with Lin not being a major part of it. Patrick Beverley has been responsible for the best moments in the postseason for the Rockets, while it’s been the opposite for the injured Lin.
Carlos Delfino or Francisco Garcia will get more minutes if Lin isn’t fit enough for game 4 on April 29, which means we’ll be seeing the Rockets as Kevin McHale and James Harden like them to be – simply pushing into the paint, hopefully having enough common sense not to try and shoot the ball every time they get the chance.
Under the current circumstances that have been created, it might even be the best solution for them now. Lin isn’t going to get the ball in his hands to enforce his style of basketball anyway, and with him injured there’s no point. The Rockets are putting the ball in the hands of James Harden to try and save them a season, while Lin is hoping he can get to be a small part of it, in a positive way.