Resurgent Lin Sparks Streaking Rockets
A similar story played out early in the fourth quarter in Los Angeles a week prior, one of only two Houston losses in the past six weeks. The Clippers torched the Rockets in the fourth quarter with a speedy, two-point-guard lineup of Chris Paul and Darren Collison, and Lin's play was so poor that McHale opted not to match up. With Lin slumping, he Rockets instead stuck with their traditional "big" lineup, and Collison repeatedly took advantage of Harden's inability to stay in front of quicker point guards laterally.
Against Portland, however, Lin entered the game midway through the third quarter with the Rockets trailing by 16, and his performance proved vital as the Rockets clawed their way back into the game.
"Jeremy had an amazing game," said Howard. "He picked us up."
On the whole, the bench has undoubtedly underachieved in recent weeks -- even with the healthy return of backup center Omer Asik. But the leader of the group was always expected to be Lin. And now that he's healthy, even the one supposed Houston weakness could be turning into a strength.
"He came up huge and make some big, big plays," Parsons said of Lin. "We need him."