In what was another clear demonstration of what Kevin McHale thinks is the ‘right kind of basketball’ he left Jeremy Lin on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, letting James Harden run wild without anyone interrupting or “threatening” his dominance. It was just about enough for a 102-100 win over the New York Knicks, but isn’t going to be the way this team wins or anything or takes another step forward.
It’s hard to argue with Harden’s ability in this game and on some nights, even when it has nothing to do with team basketball and everything to do with Harden ignoring everyone else and trying to win on his own. He finished with 37 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, looking like he wasn’t very pleased at any point in the game of letting go of the ball. Sometimes it’ll win the Rockets games; Harden is that talented. On other nights, it’ll just be an accelerator to their own demise.
The Rockets didn’t play very well against one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. The Knicks had plenty of opportunities to win the game in the final seconds, but Beno Udrih and J.R. Smith (blown defensive coverage by Harden himself) missed good shots, and eventually Aaron Brooks, who played for the entire fourth quarter instead of Lin, hit the game winning free throws.
It wasn’t the moments of Harden or Howard or Parsons on the floor that won the game for the Rockets. Their entire starting five finished with a negative +/-, struggling with the first unit of the Knicks. The Rockets were at their best with J.R. Smith on the floor, ruining it for the Knicks with a 3-of-13 shooting. Yes, Harden made some big plays in the fourth, but while he made some wise, unselfish decisions earlier in the game while leading fast breaks, it was all about his hero-ball in the final minutes.
Once again, the Rockets did manage to come back from an 8-point deficit to barely hang on for the win, but during an 82-game season, it’s about paving the road for later success. Winning like this is only an excuse for McHale to keep things as they are, which won’t get this team anywhere. Harden, like McHale, doesn’t see the big picture.
We found a way. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but at the end of the night a win is all that matters.
Maybe it has something to do with the increasing trade rumors involving Lin. The latest one has him being shipped to Chicago in a three-team trade. Right now he’s back to the shooting guard role with the Rockets. Maybe it doesn’t say so on the lineup cards, but Harden holds the ball and makes all the decisions. Not too long ago it looked like this team is heading in the right direction, but the decision to make this a Harden-team first instead of a more collective experience that involves Howard and Chandler Parsons a bit more seems to be bad for everyone, except for James Harden.
Jeremy Lin finished the game with 14 points and 4 assists. It seems that it doesn’t matter to the coaching staff that in terms of offensive efficiency and the way he affects the team he’s one of the best in the league. HOwever, the more this season goes on, it becomes clearer and clearer that using him in the right way, which will be beneficial for everyone, including Harden and McHale, just isn’t on the top of their to-do list.