Fact 1: The Brooklyn Nets lost on the road again, this time 122-118 to the Houston Rockets. Fact 2: Jeremy Lin played his first game in over a month, and looked good, even very good in the second half. While this was another loss, Nets fans have a few things to smile about looking ahead towards the rest of the season.
Lin hasn’t played since November 2, and came off the bench for 20 minutes in his return after missing 17 games. The result? Well, the Nets did lose and once again gave up a lot of points. However, the most important thing in this game was Lin finishing it healthy, and as a bonus, showing that there’s not a lot of rust to deal with after his long absence. No rust at all actually.
Lin scored 10 points and finished with 7 assists, while the Nets were a fantastic +17 during his minutes, the best on the team. Things were at their worse when Isaiah Whitehead was on the floor (-23). That’s not a dig against Whitehead, but the kid just isn’t ready to be a point guard in the NBA. Maybe the third one on a team, getting 10-15 minutes a night at best. The Nets should be able to push him down the rotation soon enough, with Lin getting more and more minutes each game.
Something that was interesting to see, especially in Lin’s second half, was his quickness. It’s not that rare to see players who worked hard on coming back from a leg injury looking quicker than before because of all the leg work they put in. Lin seems to be following the same path, doing a great job in bouncing back from his hamstring injury, as much as the 20 minutes could tell us. He didn’t mind Patrick Beverley’s famous defense in his way. This doesn’t mean the Nets are off to some new road and going to start winning left and right, but if Atkinson starts putting the right lineups around Lin, there’s a chance the Nets can slowly erase the bad impression from the first 23 games this season.
The most important part of Lin’s return from a team perspective? The Nets stood toe to toe with the hottest team in the NBA and almost won, on the road. Lin means everything to the Nets. A capable, smart, experienced playmaker; a solid defender in the backcourt against more than just point guards; someone who often thrives in the clutch; someone who can create for others, the thing the Nets miss the most when Lin isn’t playing. Maybe more minutes of Lin in this game would have meant a rare road win (the Nets are 1-10 away from home), but considering how they were blown out by the Spurs just the other night, coming out of Houston with the knowledge they were close to winning isn’t bad. I hate the term moral victory, but this was the kind of game that rekindled some of the hope the Nets brought into this season and lost the moment Lin pulled his hamstring.
And a little stat we also mentioned on Twitter, regarding Lin’s efficiency this season: His per 36 minutes are terrific, averaging 19.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 8.9 assists. He’ll put those numbers up pretty soon, once the Nets feel confident enough to give him the playing time he deserves.