Resurgent Lin Sparks Streaking Rockets
The Rockets have been winning huge games for a while now, but one thing is new this week. It's largely because of reserve guard Jeremy Lin, rather than in spite of.
Jeremy Lin's return to form is big news for the Rockets.
And while the local bandwagon swells with talk of James Harden's latest heroics, the most positive development for the team's title chances might be the long-awaited return to form of their sixth man.
Lin's 26 points off the bench (in 34 minutes played) were enormous in Houston's come-from-behind victory over Portland, including the 3-pointer that put the Rockets ahead for the first time all game, the steal of a Portland inbounds pass to preserve a tie in the final seconds of regulation, and the fadeaway jumper with a minute left in overtime that put them in front to stay.
It was Lin's most points in a game since scoring 34 way back on November 13 in Philadelphia.
"I'm really happy for him," said Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, whose team continues its gauntlet through NBA contenders with a game at Oklahoma City tonight. "We need Jeremy. I said that all along. Jeremy is the guy that can get fouled and get to the line. "He attacks. He just makes a lot of stuff happen, and when he is rolling, it just gives you more versatility in your lineup to play smaller and you can do different things."
Season started strong. It's easy to forget, but we're only three months removed from when Lin was an integral cog to the Houston machine. He scored 20 or more points four times during the season's first two weeks, and at the end of November, he was shooting 50 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from the three-point line.
In short, the controversial switch the Rockets made in training camp to start Patrick Beverley at point guard and use Lin off the bench as a scoring spark plug seemed at first to be working beautifully.
Injuries launched downward spiral. It all changed around Thanksgiving, though, when a bruised knee sidelined Lin for the next 10 days. Then, a day after his return from the knee injury, a hard screen from Golden State big man Andrew Bogut jarred Lin's back, causing spasms that would sideline Lin until nearly Christmas.
It took Lin a while to regain his rhythm, but by the end of January, things seemed to be picking up. He scored 18 points on consecutive nights in back-to-back wins over rivals San Antonio and Dallas, and then shot 50 percent or better from the field in four of the club's five February games before the All-Star break.
Post All-Star break slump. But after returning from the break, the back spasms returned and Lin's play suffered. (Rumors that the Rockets were hoping to trade Lin at the deadline, mostly for financial reasons, may not have helped his mental state, either.)
Wikimedia Commons Chandler Parsons has always been one of Jeremy Lin's top advocates.