The Pelicans game is the first complete game I’ve seen of the Rockets since probably the Spurs game on Christmas day! I wanted to see if McHale’s handling of Lin has changed at all. And I was disappointed, but not surprised to see that it hasn’t.
While watching the game, I experienced the same frustrations that caused me to take a break from watching Rockets games. So I ended up doing a hundred other things, while I had the game on so the time wouldn’t go to waste. What irritated me the most is that McHale has this play that he runs continuously where Lin just coughs up the ball to Parsons or some other player as soon as he crosses the half court, then disappears to the corner. I think the idea behind this is to keep the ball moving and also to feed Howard in the post. It’s fine if Rockets do this every now and then, but they do it over and over and over and over and it annoys the hell out of me. This is why I couldn’t pay too close attention to the game. It was hard to watch. So it looks like not much has changed. At this point, I just want Lin to be with another coach, but I have a feeling that Morey is going to wait until the summer to make trades. So I may have to suffer through this entire season and post-season with Lin not playing optimally.
In my write-up for the Celtics game I said that the identity of the Rockets should be centered around Howard with Lin as the floor general. I want to amend that somewhat. I think the identity of the Rockets should be centered around Howard, but it should be a mix of PnRs with Howard and Lin and Howard and Harden, as well as Howard Post Ups. But I think they should favor PnRs with Howard more than post ups. In last night’s game, they barely did any PnRs. In fact, I can’t recall any PnRs with Howard, but I’m sure they did a few that I missed. The Rockets kept running that silly play where Lin just coughs up the ball to Parsons the moment he crosses the half court and it was clearly not working. Yet, they ran it over and over. You would think that if something is not working, you might at least switch to doing PnRs just to see of that would work.
I think the reason why Rockets don’t do nearly enough PnRs is because Howard prefers posting up. The problem with Howard posting up is that it clogs up driving lanes, causing Lin to play passively. I keep saying this over and over, but the Rockets have three of the best PnR players in the league in Lin, Harden and Howard. It baffles the hell out of my mind why the Rockets don’t take advantage of this and run a ton of PnRs. That should be their bread and butter and it’s McHale’s duty to drill this into the team. I think Rockets would be unstoppable if they embrace this identity. But they go with McHale’s arbitrary move the ball “strategy”, where guys like Parsons or Jones end up handling the ball way more than they should. I’m all for ball movement and player movement, but I think you should at least give the guy who brings up the ball (i.e., your ball handler) a chance to make something happen, before he automatically coughs up the ball and disappears to the corner. In McHale’s offense, when Lin is playing the role of the Point Guard, Lin just becomes a glorified ball boy. He’s just the guy who does the necessary job of bringing the ball past the half court, since the ball can’t walk itself past the half court. That’s all Lin does in McHale’s offense. And then it’s only when Rockets can’t make anything happen that Lin jumps in and tries to make something happen with time running out. Either that or Lin gets to do his thing only in transition or when the defense isn’t set or a play is broken. This is why it has become too frustrating to watch Rockets games. In the Pelicans game, Harden had several plays where he would try to make something happen with time running out and at the very last second, he would dish it off to his teammates, because he doesn’t want to sacrifice his field goal percentage or whatever. He did this to Lin twice in last night’s game and he did it to other players, as well, like Jones. The Pelicans announcers (who I enjoyed listening to, because they weren’t homers) even pointed this out.
Anyway, the Pelicans should have won last night’s game. They played well and were in control of the game. So that was a heartbreaking loss for the Pelicans. It looked like they were going to win the game, up until the last couple of minutes or so. One good thing that happened is that during crunch time, Rockets didn’t play Harden Hero Ball. In the last significant play, Lin actually dribbled the ball at the top of the key and Harden set a PnR for Lin causing a mismatch for Harden who managed to get good spacing for a good shot over a smaller Rivers. I can’t give too much credit for McHale, though, because if I recall this play was set up off of a Houston Rockets offensive rebound. So it wasn’t a play that McHale ran out of a timeout. I think Jones or someone got the offensive rebound and passed it out to Lin. So it was more of a spontaneous play.
I most likely won’t be able to catch the OKC game. But for those who will be able to watch it, I’d be curious to see if Lin gets to actually handle the ball or is he just a glorified ball boy.