Before anything is discussed, it should be remembered that Carmelo Anthony sat out tonight with an injured left ankle. To earn a win, even a blowout win which was over by the nine-minute mark, against a team who started Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Chris Copeland (whom I had never heard of before tonight, but was absolutely fantastic both during the game and garbage time with 29 points ), and Tyson Chandler is hardly a tremendous accomplishment.
That said, tonight can described by one statistic. By the end of the third quarter, at which point the Rockets led by 23, Jeremy Lin had eight assists. The New York Knicks had nine.
While New York did finish with the lead at the end of the first quarter, they scored 31 points off of contested jumpers and JR Smith having one of his hot moments while Houston drove to the lane. Over the rest of the game, those points dried up for them and Houston ran away with the lead for the rest of the game. While the Knicks did come scarily close to come within five at the 6:18 mark thanks to Houston not making a field goal with until the 6 minute mark, the Rockets responded to that offensive drought with a tear from the three-point line and the paint which created a 15-0 run that effectively ended the game.
After his absolutely miserably performance yesterday against Toronto, Lin rebounded for his best game of the season. No, he didn’t score more points (though he had a splendid 22) and it wasn’t comparable to his past Linsanity stretches like that game against San Antonio was. But Linsanity was never going to be the prime focus of a good Houston team, especially after the James Harden deal. As I wrote yesterday, Lin, as the less talented player, would need to be the one who would need to learn to work with Harden rather than the other way around. And tonight, for perhaps the first game this year, Harden and Lin seemed to be comfortable working with one another, something which is a thousand times more important towards winning than Linsanity. The pair drove to the lane, collected fouls (including a flagrant 1 when Tyson Chandler inadvertently elbowed Lin in the face), and Harden made his jumpers. While Lin did not, he dished the ball off to one of Houston’s three point shooters or a bumbling Asik who stood next to the rim.
One game does not a process finish, and there will be plenty of moments where the two ball-dominant wings struggle to work together in the future, just like Mr. Wade and James did when they joined force in South Beach. But if there was anything which should have been taken away from tonight, it is that just like the San Antonio game proved Lin’s talent, tonight’s game showed the ability of him and Harden to work together.
- New York fans are just weird. To capture the mood of one of the largest cities in the globe on something as controversial as Lin’s free agent signing is something no one had done before tonight, and thus I legitimately wondered how the crowd would view their former hero. They cheered Lin when he was announced, booed him somewhat when he actually took the floor, and became ever more raucous and noisy as Lin demonstrated his talent and why they had fallen in love with him. However, as he finally departed the court with a few minutes left in the game, the crowd cheered once more. Through that ugly, at times hilarious saga that was Lin’s signing with the Rockets, it is absolutely clear that Lin at the end of the day had hoped to resign with the Knicks, but James Dolan and James Dolan alone chose not to match at the last minute. Whether the signing was a good contract or not, Lin should be held blameless for that sordid mess and it was good to see that some New York fans understood this at the end.
- I do apologize for this article seemingly being entirely about Lin, but it is the story for tonight’s game. Still, aside from poor shooting by Parsons, including a botched open layup in the first quarter, and Asik being repeatedly outmuscled by Chandler and finishing with merely 2 rebounds, no Rocket played poorly tonight. It is really great to see consistent greatness from Harden, accurate three point shooting from Morris and Delfino and even Douglas doing….well, whatever Douglas is doing.
- One field where I disagree with Rahat and many other Rockets fans is on the importance of playing time for development. I do not believe in the idea that giving a young player minutes and the ball just in the name of development is a smart move, as from my experience with sports, the meet or the game is not where you go to learn how to do something. It’s where you execute everything you’ve gone through with constant drills and practices. Morris had a season where he barely played off, and while there are times where you wonder if he will be alright, no one can deny that he significantly improved since his rookie season. Patterson’s case is also similar, as he did not receive consistent minutes in his rookie campaign until around January or February. Consequently, while I may personally not like when Terrence Jones barely plays even the midst of garbage time, it is not something which I actually think affects our season one way or the other. If Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, or another rookie who seems to think that he deserves playing time off the bat showcases themselves well in practice, they will earn minutes. That is the proper way to teach good habits and attitudes to survive in this league.