So I haven’t watched any Rockets games for a while now, but have started watching them again now the that playoffs are under way. The biggest thing I notice is that Lin’s role has been even more diminished by McHale. It may not be as noticeable if you’ve been watching the Rockets consistently, but since I took a break, Lin’s continuous demotion has become even more evident to me. It’s crazy how he barely gets to handle the ball and he only gets to do anything when things get broken up or in transition. However, I have noticed that Lin takes it upon himself to be aggressive and play his game as much as he can, without getting caught by McHale when it really matters late in the fourth quarter and in overtime. He has done this in all three games, including in tonight’s game. Lin could have won game 1 in overtime, if McHale had any trust in Lin, instead of keep going back to Harden Hero Balling. In Game 4, Lin had “the look”, then McHale took Lin out when McHale noticed Lin trying to score, rather than automatically dumping the ball to Harden and Howard.
The Rockets have looked awful in the first two games, because they heavily relied on hero balling with the H&H boys. There’s been absolutely no ball movement. Just isos and post ups. They have all but stopped doing any pick and rolls, which, to me is completely idiotic, since they have three of the best Pick and Roll players on their team (Lin, Howard and Harden). Only McHale can be blinded by something so blindingly obvious.
In Game 3, McHale wised up and went back to more of team basketball, although, it still wasn’t anywhere near what this team is capable of. And late in the fourth quarter and overtime, they went back to relying heavily on the H&H boys. It was almost comical how nearly every time they relied on the H&H boys, things would go wrong. Lin really took it upon himself, as he did in games 1 and 2, during crunch time to will a win for the Rockets. He had “the look” again tonight late in the fourth and in overtime. He knows that McHale’s H&H strategy continues to fail and he does whatever he can to slip under McHale’s radar and sneaks in playing the way Lin knows how to play. Because Parsons fouled out, McHale had no choice but to keep Lin in the game tonight, rather than yank Lin out, like he did in Game 2. Although Lin missed the layup that ended up giving Batum the three to send the game into overtime, Lin made the right play. Nearly every time, when Lin was involved good things happened for the Rockets in Game 3 in crunch time. I do have to say, though, that Lin made a couple of very very uncharacteristic boneheaded mistakes in Game 2. One was fouling Lillard intentionally when the Rockets didn’t need a foul and the other was not taking an open three when the Rockets desperately needed a three.
Getting back to Game 3. I think the Rockets players started realizing that whenever Lin was controlling the offense good things would happen. So Lin got to actually be the floor general during crunch time and that’s the reason the Rockets won. Of course, they kept going back to the H&H boys, even though bad things happened nearly every time they did that.
Many fans will argue that Harden had a fantastic game, because he scored 37 points and grabbed 9 rebounds and dished out 6 assists. I would argue that Harden scored 37 points very inefficiently (shooting 13-35 and 3 for 11 from three-point). His points came at the expense of so may other Rockets players and he actually hurt the Rockets more than helped the Rockets tonight. And in the last seconds, Harden prevented the Rockets from winning in overtime, by doing one of his many unnecessary isos that lost the ball and could have turned into an easy fast break for the Rockets if it weren’t for Lin’s miraculous save and dish to Daniels for the game winning shot. I don’t know how Lin managed to get the ball back on that play. It looked for sure like Portland would run away with the ball. But somehow, Lin willed the ball back into Houston’s possession.
I have to admit, I was cheering for the Blazers tonight. I was going for a sweep to really drive home the point that McHale has no business coaching and I also like the way the Blazers play. They seem like a good group of guys. Guys worthy of rooting for. But Lin made it hard for me to continue to cheer for the Blazers down the stretch, because he kept making big plays. So I was pretty conflicted in the end, but happy that Lin was a key factor in the Rockets winning the game. He would have been a key factor in the Rockets wining games 1 and 2 as well, if it weren’t for McHale.
I’ll remain conflicted throughout this series, because I don’t see Lin being a part of this team the way he should be. So Rockets losing has nothing to do with him. In fact, Rockets losing is an indictment on McHale’s misuse of Lin. At this point, I’m already just looking ahead and hoping Lin gets traded or they bring in a coach who will use Lin the right way. Lin needs to use the off-season to shake off McHale’s brain washing and get back to playing the way he knows how to play. I feel like his confidence is almost completely drained out of him. He doesn’t seem like the same guy to me anymore, except during crunch time. I don’t think he feels like he has the right to play aggressively anymore, unless he feels the game slipping away and the H&H boys can’t get it going. Lin can’t change this mindset during the playoffs, but I’m hoping that he’ll figure out a way to get out of this mindset (i.e., like he’s some second-class citizen) during the off-season.
At this point, I don’t really care about what happens in this series now that there’s no possibility of a sweep. Just still rooting for Lin and just watching the game pretty much objectively, which isn’t the funnest way to watch games. Hence, one of the many reasons why I stopped watching Rockets games. Hope you all enjoyed Game 3!