Lots to say about tonight’s game, but I don’t have much time, so I’ll keep it short. May add more to this post later, but just wanted to get out some thoughts while they’re fresh.
First of all, Lin scored over 30 points two games in a row. Lin ended with a spectacular 34 points, 12 assists (a career high 9 of 15 from three-point), 5 rebounds and 8 turnovers. Lin didn’t do much driving in tonight’s game and they’re still not doing hardly any PnRs with Lin and Howard. But Lin’s three-point shooting was the story tonight. Before the pre-season even started, I predicted that Lin would shoot 40%+ from three-point this season, so I’m not too surprised about Lin’s shooting performance tonight, although the first couple of games in the season, Lin’s shooting looked a lot like it did last season. So I’m happy to see that the stroke is still nice and smooth.
There are lots to say about how differently the Rockets played–especially on offense tonight. But first, I want to address Garcia’s rushed three-point with 12 seconds left in the game. I have no idea what the hell he was thinking! He might have been fouled on the play, but it was still a highly contested shot and we still had 12 seconds left in the game. Once again, McHale has no ability to run plays and this is THE reason why Rockets continue to lose close games. Also, Rockets opponents have a tendency to hit clutch shots no matter how highly contested the shot is. Tonight, it was James Anderson, who nailed the dagger, even with Lin right up in his grill. And don’t even get me started on James Anderson. If you were a reader of this blog last season, you would know how often and how vehemently I would scream at McHale to play James Anderson. Kevin McHale is perhaps one of the worst judges of talents in the NBA! He played Toney Douglas over Patrick Beverley. He played Delfino over Garcia. And he rarely played James Anderson, even though Anderson is more than capable of relieving James Harden. Anyway, I won’t beat that dead horse in this post.
Tonight, the Rockets, led by Lin, played the way they’re supposed to. They had a season high 34 assists as a team and the ball actually moved around like it did in the pre-season. The scoring was evenly distributed and a big reason for this is that you didn’t have Harden, who tends to stop the ball, as a lot of superstars do. So I guess it just comes with the territory. But I hope that Harden can gain some insight from sitting on the bench about how he can do a better job of moving the ball. We’ll see. I’m not so confident that much will change–especially since the Rockets ended up losing. Every single Rockets who played more than 5 minutes, except Garcia, ended up with double-digit points, with three players scoring over 20.
I think a big reason for the loss was, of course, Rockets lack of end of game strategies. But also, Lin sort of took himself out of the game in the fourth quarter, when the Rockets needed him to step up. I also didn’t like that Beverley kept bringing up the ball in the fourth quarter, when Lin is much better when he brings up the ball. It gets him into rhythm, so I think Lin should have taken the ball up at least half of the time. Don’t know why McHale uses Beverley as the point guard most of the time. That makes no sense. It’s fine to mix it up every now and then, but Lin should be the one bringing up the ball maybe half of the time. Sure, it’s a good idea to give Lin some rest and not have him bring up the ball every time, but I think it was a mistake to keep having Lin play off the ball in the fourth quarter. That definitely contributed to him getting off rhythm.
I do blame Lin the most, tonight, for taking himself out of the game. Here’s what I think happened. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part, but I feel like Lin does get self-conscientious when he feels like he’s scoring too much and he lets up, trying to get his teammates involved more or he stays away from the ball altogether, so he doesn’t seem like he’s trying to hog the spotlight. I think this is what happened to Lin early in the fourth quarter. He already had 28 points and didn’t want to keep scoring. He didn’t look to score at all, until much later in the fourth quarter and by that time he completely lost his rhythm. This is something that is a part of Lin until he does become the number one option on a team and doesn’t feel self-conscious about scoring the ball. When it is Lin’s job to score the ball, then he won’t feel self-conscious about it. On this team, he doesn’t feel like it’s his role to score the ball a lot, so I think part of him starts feeling a little self-conscious when he does start putting up a lot of points. When it happens in the second half, then he has no time to feel self-conscious. But in this Phillies game, he was hot from the start, so he had a lot of time to start feeling self-conscious and make a concerted effort to not score. This actually happened in the Spurs game, in which he scored 38 last year, as well. He let up early in the fourth quarter and lost his rhythm. And I could see him letting up in this game trying to not be a ball hog. I’m sure he’s not conscientious of this. It’s something that happens subconsciously and affects his killer instinct. This is something that Lin needs to work on, but he won’t have many chances to work on it in Houston. So this is something that will be a part of Lin until he goes to a team where he’s the number one option and is asked to be a “ball hog”.
It really sucks that Rockets lost tonight, because it takes a lot away from what Lin did and all the positives that occurred in this game. The Rockets definitely let one get away from them. Again, they should have fouled in the fourth quarter to prevent a game-tying three, looking back. But that’s hindsight. I still have no idea what happened with that play by Garcia. It made no sense. Why would you EVER think to put up a shot like that with 12 seconds left? The play should have been to give the ball to Lin and let him dribble out the clock and make a play as the clock winds down to zero. That’s a no-brainer in that situation. Instead, McHale seemed to have drawn up a play that is meant for when you have less than 10 seconds on the clock. But that’s being generous to McHale, because it really didn’t look like any play was drawn up.
This Rockets team has the worst in-bounding “plays” I’ve seen. Where are the screens or double screens or mis-direction to free up your shooter? This is a big issue for McHale and another reason among a laundry list of reasons why he’s not ready to be head coach of ANY team, let alone a contending team. Every other coach seems to be able to draw up the perfect play to beat the Rockets at the end of games. McHale had 18 seconds and ended up using only six seconds to have Garcia put up a highly contested shot. That’s insane! Of course, Garcia is to blame for that one, as well. But maybe if McHale had just done what he should have done, which was to let Lin have the ball at the top and make a play with the clock winding down, then that Garcia catastrophe wouldn’t have happened.