What a fun game to watch. Linsanity 2.0 was in the house, but what I was most excited about was that McHale is FINALLY figuring out how to use his players. It took him way too long, but at least he’s starting to figure it out just in time for the playoffs.
For the first time since back in December, McHale staggered Lin’s and Harden’s minutes. We’ll see if this continues. But it was very effective tonight. He took Lin out late in the first quarter, which was perfect. And then put Lin back in in the beginning of the second and sat Harden. this is EXACTLY what I’ve been calling for McHale to do all season. Then he gave Lin a breather in the middle of the second quarter and put Lin back late in the second quarter. He used a similar strategy in the second half, but left Beverly. The Lin-Harden-Beverly trio in the second half was very intriguing and worked out well tonight. Lin also worked very well with Beverly (when Harden wasn’t on the court), much like he did with Douglas. Lin isn’t shy about demanding the ball from Beverly, but also did a great job of finding Beverly in optimal situations. There was also a nice give-and-go between Beverly and Lin in the second half. I hope McHale notices this and plays Lin and Beverly together more.
McHale also didn’t run Harden to the ground, which is expected as we’re getting closer to the playoffs. But I hope McHale continues to give his players rest, rather than playing them for entire halves, even during the playoffs. It think it’s much more effective to keep guys fresh than to run a few of them to the ground, because you don’t trust any of the other guys. Rockets basketball requires pace and energy, so it’s critical to have fresh bodies out there at all times. I think Rockets have the guys to use a 10-player rotation, which is exactly what is required for the Rockets fast-paced high-energy offense to work. The thing about the Rockets is that we’re very deep. But McHale hasn’t been doing a good job with the rotation, so we’re not fully utilizing the guys on our team. McHale has been doing a better job of this in the most recent games, due to Harden and Parsons being out. But I hope this teaches McHale to have more trust in his other guys. Anderson got playing time and Garcia did well in the first quarter, but sat too long the rest of the game. Overall, though, there was a good balance and McHale’s usage of Lin tonight was very close to what I’ve been calling for all season. Hope he sticks with this formula–especially of staggering Lin’s and Harden’s minutes.
Lin took it easy in the first quarter, but turned things up when Harden wasn’t on the floor. He also gave the Rockets a much-needed spark in the third by scoring 7 straight points to start off the third quarter. Lin played very aggressively–especially in the second half–and had so many picture-perfect assists. He definitely owned Lillard tonight and pretty much shut Lillard down–although Beverly was on Lillard quite a bit in the second half. But Lillard also didn’t do much when Lin was on him. Harden also had a solid game. One of his better games as of late. His shot looked good tonight, after struggling with his shooting, lately. Linharden finished with 55 points (22 Lin; 33 Harden), 14 assists (8 Lin; 6 Harden), 11 rebounds (4 Lin; 7 Harden), and 3 steals (2 Lin; 1 Harden). Greg Smith ended up with 19 points, which was shocking to me, because I didn’t notice him scoring that much. He had 12 free throw attempts and made 9 of them. That has to be a career high for Greg Smith. So another solid start for Smith.
Rockets only need two more games to clinch the playoffs. As we’re approaching the playoffs, I’m seeing a lot of depth in this Rockets squad. I think having Harden and Parsons out of the line up for a few games was a blessing in disguise, because it forced McHale out of his comfort zone. It made him play guys that he otherwise wouldn’t and I think this has resulted in making the Rockets a lot more dangerous. I just hope that McHale learns from this and uses more of this type of rotation in the playoffs. I hope he doesn’t revert back to playing Harden and Parsons to the ground in the playoffs. I just think it’s not a very effective way, because players get tired and don’t provide the same level of energy that Rockets require for our style of basketball. I really like the way this team looks coming into the playoffs and if McHale continues to stagger Lin’s and Harden’s minutes, Rockets are going to make a lot of noise in the playoffs. I also hope McHale starts trusting Garcia over Delfino. I feel like the Rockets are at their most dangerous right now, because McHale is finally using the players the right way and at the right amount. I just hope it continues. If it does, Rockets have a good shot of making it past the second round–especially if we get the 6th seed. Gallinari is out for the season, so I really like the Rockets chances if they face either Denver or the Clippers. The Clippers seem to be in a bit of a funk, lately. If we face either Denver or the Clippers, I predict Rockets make it past the first round of the playoffs. Probably win in 6. Book it! Actually, I even like the Rockets chances if they face a Spurs without Parker. So basically, Rockets will make it to the second round of the playoffs if Parker is out for the rest of the season or if they don’t play OKC. In short, The only teams I don’t want Rockets to face in the playoffs are OKC, Memphis and Spurs (with Parker). Other than that, I think Rockets will surprise all the analysts (like they have been all season) and make it past the first round.
For those who don’t know, Jeremy Lin will be on 60 Minutes this Sunday. I’m definitely looking forward to that. Been wondering when they would air it. Kind of odd timing, but I think it turned out for the best. I thought they were going to air it to kick off the NBA season, but I’m glad they didn’t, because Lin was still dealing with so many issues around that time. Lin is definitely in a much better place now, so I think it’s perfect timing for a 60 Minutes profile on him to be aired.