Coming back from an injury did mean we’ll probably see less minutes from Jeremy Lin than he should be playing, but in a game of offenses in which the Houston Rockets really struggled scoring when not in transition, more minutes with him on the floor instead of the very limited Patrick Beverley next to the frustrating James Harden might have brought them closer to win.
Lin ended up playing 15 minutes, scoring 5 points and adding two assists, playing for the first time after practically missing 7 games (he was out for 6). This led to James Harden playing 42 minutes (which would have happened anyway), scoring 25 points and adding 7 assists. When the Rockets were running fast breaks (not enough), Harden’s leadership and ability with the ball were commendable. He finished easily near the rim and found Dwight Howard and others for easy two points.
But when it became a half court kind of game, as the Blazers improved their defense and hustle? Harden finished with 8-of-18 from the field, which isn’t too bad for him but there were too many moments of him dribbling alone while the rest of the players were waiting for something to happen. Patrick Beverley? He did a good job on Lillard (keeping him on 1-of-10 from the field), but was awful offensively himself, hitting only 3-of-10 from the field, scoring nine points.
This was always going to be a game of shot for shot. The Blazers are mediocre defensively, while the Rockets are quite terrible, not really giving Dwight Howard a hand on the perimeter. Sampson tried countering that by forgetting about what he has one the bench, using only three substitutes, and keeping Beverley on the floor for 39 minutes. The Rockets were losing by 15 points when Beverley was on the floor.
There comes a point when Lin really should start thinking about how much credit and responsibility he’s going to get from the coaching staff. Maybe the Blazers game isn’t the perfect example – he’s coming off an injury, although not one that should limit him, the team’s smartest guard and best passer, for only 15 minutes against a Blazers team that has Lillard and Mo Williams, not to mention Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge, all play makers who know what to do with the ball.
The defense, as a team, continues to be horrific, with Dwight Howard forced to close down too many holes and too many blown assignments for him to look like a DPOY, which he usually looks like when he’s playing with a group that has better commitment to stopping their man on the perimeter. The way Harden let Mathews blow by him in the fourth quarter for an important bucket, simply giving up in the middle of the coverage while Mathews got into the paint, shows just how uncoordinated the parts seem. Kevin McHale wasn’t in Portland to coach the team, but his fingerprints are on everything good and bad with this group.
Moving on to visit their favorite opponents, the Golden State Warriors, the Rockets once again need to improve their three point shooting. How do they do that? By having more movement, more spacing and most of all better decision makers with the ball. For that, Jeremy Lin needs to be on the floor for more than just one quarter and a bit, preferably starting as well.