Houston Rockets – Jeremy Lin Better Without James Harden But Still Needs Him

Jeremy Lin

The Houston Rockets losing 123-117 to the Philadelphia 76ers was a perfect example of how Jeremy Lin can be a great scorer when he doesn’t play next to James Harden, but how his team do need their injured shooting guard on the floor, if it was obvious in the first place, but also just how bad of a coaching job Kevin McHale has been doing.

Lin finished with 34 points, hitting 9-of-15 from beyond the arc and adding 12 assists. He also turned the ball over 8 times (Averaging 4 per game this season) and was easily beaten time and time again on defense. Lin himself didn’t have much to say about another impressive scoring night (his second 30+ game in a row), but was more concerned about the loss and his defensive performance.

It was my worst defensive game of the season. Tomorrow has to be my best defensive game of the season.

James Harden is out with a bruised left foot, which means he won’t be out for a long time. The Rockets play smarter, better offensive basketball without him. The defense isn’t very different with him or without him, as the perimeter remains completely breached, and everyone is hoping Dwight Howard does too many things on his own. It still doesn’t mean that Harden isn’t good for the Rockets.

Being possibly the best shooting guard in the NBA, replacing James Harden with Jeremy Lin isn’t the problem; having Patrick Beverley being such an integral part of the team’s rotation is. Beverley is a backup point guard who is a good scorer, but putting him and Lin together in the lineup is defensive suicide, as the 76ers went on to score 123 points in the overtime loss.

The offense might not have been hurt by Harden’s absence, but his presence forces team to defend differently, and as long as he doesn’t hold on to the ball too much, there’s no doubt that his ability to penetrate and get to the line becomes a huge advantage for the Rockets.

The problem for the Rockets is balancing the different styles their two dominant guards make the team play in when they have the ball in their hands for the majority of the time. While Lin has no problem sharing the spotlight and playing a second fiddle to Harden even if it means playing in a different role than the one he’s best at, Harden is a tougher customer to sell changes to, not to mention McHale not wanting to make a change. Against the Toronto Raptors, Harden himself understood at some point that passing to a wide open Lin isn’t such a bad idea, before taking over in the second overtime of that game.

Why did Omer Asik play only four minutes against the 76ers, while an exhausted Dwight Howard stay 42 minutes on the floor? Howard did finish with 23 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 blocks; he even shot 5-of-9 from the line. Still, there’s a reason the Rockets kept Asik on the team, and it wasn’t for him to spend four minutes total on the floor, one of three bench players who didn’t contribute a single point while Omri Casspi had another strong performance with 16 points.

Maybe it came down to the Rockets simply trying too much from three – 41 attempts. It’s happened 4 times for the team over the last 28 years. They’ve never won a game when they’ve tried so much from the outside, as Beverley and Parsons combined for 2-of-10 from three. Once again, another indication, along with the defense being terrible and the losses in several close games, that someone on the sidelines isn’t doing a very good job.

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