The Houston Rockets seem to be slowly giving up on their best point guard, demoting him into a bench role, although it still all might be about bringing him back slowly from injury. Sometimes, it’s hard to argue with numbers – their starting lineup that includes James Harden, Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones has the best net rating in the NBA.
Beverley actually had what might have been his best game of the season, scoring 16 points on 7-of-9 from the field to help the Houston Rockets win 116-112, outscoring the Warriors 23-13 in the final minutes of the game, as Dwight Howard got hot, James Harden did as well, while Lin came off the bench to kill the game with some accurate free throws, finishing with 8 points in 21 minutes.
This win had most eyes turned to Howard. He scored “only” 17 points, grabbing 11 rebounds in the process. But he hit a three pointer, something that rarely happens for the center, and more importantly, he finished with 7-of-7 from the line. He’s shooting 57% this season on the free throw line, and 67.9% over the last five games, indicating that maybe one of his biggest faults is slowly being taken care of.
The Rockets had to withstand another ferocious comeback from the Warriors and some expert shooting from Stephen Curry, scoring 20 points, finding his stroke only in the late stages of the game. However, the Rockets have the Warriors number over the last couple of years – two teams that rely so heavily on three point shooters. Warriors might have Curry and Thompson, but playing a wild, reckless game against Houston usually doesn’t end up well. James Harden thrives in mayhem and open court, while Parsons, Lin, Casspi and Garcia are no slouches as well. Without Iguodala, the Rockets simply have a smarter team than Golden State right now.
Lin needs to be worried, as we’ve mentioned in the past. The Rockets’ net ratings won’t be this good forever. Beverley isn’t someone who can be trusted offensively, and neither is Harden. He’ll get his points (scoring 26 this time), but shooting only 9-of-22 from the field. He’s shooting only 41.7% from the field over the last five games, and things would have been worse if it wasn’t for the improvement of Howard and the return of Parsons.
Lin? Maybe it will be better for him eventually to be traded. Things change quickly in the NBA, and right now it looks like his time off due to injury has hurt his place in the rotation. He’s playing mostly with the weaker unit, and even when he’s on the floor with Harden, the ball isn’t in his hands to make him play like he should. While the Rockets are in a wild shootout, that’s fine, but when it comes to some half court offense or a need for smarter decision making, not turning to Lin and not trusting him with the ball might be something they’ll learn to regret.
The Rockets are only 3-3 in their last six games. A team that’s so talented, but keeps falling on the same mistakes: Defense, and a wrong use of its rotation. One impressive win on the road while ignoring Lin doesn’t indicate a solution. Without making him a vital part of their offense instead of Beverley, a very limited player, this seson won’t reach the heights it should and could with this group of players.