The two stories to look at coming out of the 112-110 Minnesota Timberwolves win over the Houston Rockets? Corey Brewer scoring 51 points in a game that’s probably going to remain his career high, while Kevin McHale continues to trust only James Harden at the moment, resulting in a botched up final play, and continuing to ignore Jeremy Lin.
Maybe the Rockets don’t even come close to winning without Harden. Not just his 33 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists and 6 steals – truly an impressive stat line and it’s hard to deny just how good he was when things went his way. Harden tied the game at 110-110 with a three pointer. But with the team down two points, Harden tried his approach of him against the world and slipped, turning the ball over and the Rockets lost the game.
Backtracking a bit – the Timberwolves won the game with a Gorgui Dieng shot coming in 4.6 seconds left. Ricky Rubio seemed to be blowing by Jeremy Lin, so Omer Asik left his spot which allowed Dieng to get open. Yes, maybe Rubio then tries to score over Asik after getting by Lin, but when thinking about odds, it’s better to let Rubio try and score himself than leave him an opening for a pass. He was 5-of-16 from the field in the game, but is also one of the best passers in the NBA. Should be an easy choice.
Brewer made up for the points Kevin Love wasn’t going to give them with his elbow injury. He only had two 3-pointers in the game, but made 19-of-30 from the field and 11-of-15 from the line in another game of no defense from the Rockets, struggling to contain Dieng in the paint. The rookie had 20 rebounds in total and 10 on offense, adding 12 points of his own. Brewer also had six steals as the Rockets turned the ball over 20 times in the game, 10 of them coming from Lin and Harden.
This wasn’t a very good game from Lin, who scored 14 points and turned the ball over five times. But once again, it’s easy to see why he isn’t playing his best basketball, stuck in a spot up shooter’s role. He made 3-of-6 from beyond the arc but played only 24 minutes while James Harden spent 46 minutes on the floor. The Rockets went with Harden as point guard next to Francisco Garcia and other interesting ideas. They were usually better with Lin on the floor than on the bench.
Suddenly home court advantage, something that seemed certain two weeks ago, is at huge risk. They’re only 0.5 games over the Blazers with three games to go. We’re not throwing this on Harden or saying Lin could have changed the course of history with a few more minutes. The Rockets have the Howard-Beverley excuse card to use as well. But a better head coach would have done more with what he has left, and instead of overusing James Harden and running him into the ground, he might have swallowed his ego and gave someone like Lin a chance to play more meaningful minutes in a more meaningful role.