Patrick Beverley didn’t show any rust in his return to the starting lineup against the red-hot Blazers. So I can’t say, “I told you so” to McHale and have to eat the words I wrote in my comments to MrPingPong (in the previous post) about how I think Beverley should be eased into the starting lineup. Beverley was humble enough, though, to ask to be subbed out in the second quarter (I think) due to fatigue. So he’ll have to work on managing his energy level, which has always been an issue for Beverley and is one of the reasons it makes a lot of sense to have him come off the bench as an energy guy. But I have to give McHale credit. Beverley was ready to go last night. He actually looked the best he’s look probably all season. He was aggressive, confident and his threes fell. He didn’t hesitate about scoring and didn’t defer to Harden. I think sitting on the bench and observing may have helped Beverley figure out his place with the team a little bit more and gave him confidence to assert himself on the offensive end more. This is something that I was hoping Lin’s injury would help Lin do. But Lin came back from injury much less confident and a very different player from the one that started the season with so much confidence and lack of inhibition.
McHale’s management of Beverley’s minutes was a little odd, last night. For example, he subbed Beverley out very early in the first quarter (with 8 minutes or so left in the quarter), even when Beverley was doing well. I was pretty surprised by this. Normally he doesn’t make substitutions until the 4 minute mark. So maybe McHale was trying to ease Beverley back into the starting lineup, but didn’t want to rock the boat by taking away his starting job. Not sure. Beverley ended up playing only 29 minutes, despite having a great game. So it does appear that McHale was cognizant of containing Beverley’s minutes on his first day back. This is in contrast to McHale playing Parsons 39 minutes on his first day back from an injury. Although, Beverley had been out longer, so it makes sense that McHale would be more careful about containing Beverley’s minutes.
I also noticed that Beverley’s return seemed to motivate Lin to try to be more aggressive. Although Lin was a non-factor in last night’s game, he was more aggressive than he had been in the last few games. He didn’t do the “glorified ball boy thing” last night, but couldn’t really get much going. He just didn’t have it last night, but at least it looked like he was trying to be aggressive. Lin did get robbed of a couple non-calls from the refs. I’m starting to feel like Lin is, again, getting the shaft from the refs. It hasn’t gotten to the absurd level that it was at early last season and hopefully it doesn’t, although that non-call mauling of Lin in the recent Celtics game was very disturbing.
Last night’s game started out eerily similar to the OKC game. Rockets couldn’t miss. But, unlike the OKC game, the Rockets remained pretty stable throughout the game and managed to beat one of the best teams in the NBA for a second time this season. Looks like the Rockets have Blazers number so if they face the Blazers in the playoffs Rockets could stand a good chance to advance to the western conference finals. I can’t really figure out why the Rockets seem to have a pretty easy time against the Blazers, because on paper it seems like the Blazers would be a tough match up. It’s not like the Knicks last season versus the Rockets last season, who had completely different styles and the Rockets blew out the Knicks even when the Knicks were dominant early last season. Blazers and Rockets play relatively similar styles, so I’m not sure why the Rockets seem to have little problem putting away the Blazers. We’ll see if Rockets will continue to have an edge over the Blazers the rest of the season.
The Rockets looked great last night. It was a total team effort, minus Lin. Lin was the only player to have a negative +/- (-7) on the night and Beverley’s +/- was otherworldly in that it was more than twice the player with the second highest +/- of the game (+26). I don’t generally put too much stock in +/- game-to-game, but Beverley’s +/- for the game was hard to ignore. As with most +/- measures, luck had some to do with Beverley’s very high +/- (i.e., Beverley just happened to get subbed in when the Rockets, as a whole, went on a run and/or the Blazers happened to be in a slump). Despite Beverley’s high +/-, the best player of the game was clearly Parsons, who was especially dominant in the first half doing everything imaginable on the court. Parsons was very active and really helped set the tone for the Rockets. The ball movement was excellent and, as Beverley said in his postgame, the Rockets played “the right way.” They shared the ball and played unselfishly.
I think one of the reasons why McHale loves Beverley so much is because he just goes out there and works his ass off. He doesn’t care about scoring and just goes hard, without any agenda. Very blue-collar and he’s got a lot of grit. I don’t think McHale sees Lin having these attributes. I think McHale thinks Lin is more concerned about his stats, about scoring, etc. and doesn’t just go out there and play without an agenda. I’m not saying McHale is right about Lin, but I do think McHale is right on about Beverley. And it’s what makes me a fan of Beverley and it’s why I think a lot of people are fans of Beverley. He is very much “in the moment” when he is on the court. He doesn’t think. He just plays. He acts in the moment without concern for anything beyond that moment. This is how Beverley is able to constantly inject a high level of energy and why he’s so poor at managing his energy level. He plays every moment as if it is the only moment there is. He’s in the Now.
I do think Lin over thinks things way too much out there. This was especially the case at the beginning of last season and is starting to be the case, as well, this season. Lin is very analytical and a Harvard education doesn’t help in that regard. Overly educated people tend to be in their head way too much. This is why I think McHale thinks Lin is concerned about his stats or has an agenda, because I think he sees Lin being concerned about too many things out there and not just going out there and playing. The thing is, Lin isn’t so much worried about his stats as he is concerned about messing up in McHale’s eyes. I’m sure Lin is also questioning his future with the Rockets. These fears all show up in Lin’s play and prevents him from being “in the moment” when he’s on the court. I don’t expect things to change anytime soon in this regard. I’ve talked about this in the past, but Lin really needs to sit down with Tony Robbins (or someone nearly as great) to get him back to playing loose and free. When Lin plays loose and free, he’s Linsanity and he’s unstoppable. Lately, Lin has been playing very inhibited, playing scared. And this is why even though Beverley’s return motivated Lin to play more aggressively, he still wasn’t able to get much going. Hopefully, he’ll get it together soon. I do believe that Beverley’s return is a positive thing for Lin in one respect: it’ll motivate him to be more aggressive.