I’m Okay with Lin Being 6th Man IF He Finishes Games

So, there’s been a lot of talk about Lin not starting in the game against the Pacers in Manila. I actually wasn’t too surprised, as I expected McHale to experiment with Lin and Beverley in the preseason. As for whether or not this had anything to do with the whole McFale/Lin dynamics I’ve discussed in the past, the jury is still out on that. I’m sure there’s some of it, because McHale has said in the past that you want your starters to be the BEST five players on the team. So, him even considering not starting Lin does tell me that he doesn’t consider Lin being clearly one of the five best players on the team. But setting the McFale/Lin dynamics all aside, I can understand the decision to use Lin as a sixth man ala Ginobili.

Here’s my reasoning for it. Lin makes ANY four guys on the floor better, because he’s the consummate floor general. He just knows how to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. What was so captivating about Linsanity in New York is it brought back the fun in basketball. After endless Melo iso’s, the ball finally moved around and a bunch of no-names, such as Steve Novak, suddenly played like stars. And MOST importantly Linsanity won games. This is what Lin does. He makes his teammates better and helps teams win games.

There’s no doubt Parsons, Howard, and Harden (PHH) are better with Lin on the floor. The second unit is also better with Lin in the floor. Like I said, Lin makes ANY four guys on the floor better. So, as a coach, trying to figure out what is best for the team, I think an argument can be made for bringing Lin off the bench to help bring cohesion to the second unit. In other words, the second unit needs Lin a lot more than the starters need Lin, because Beverley can’t run the offense. The bench needs someone to run the show a lot more than PHH do. I’m not saying that PHH doesn’t need someone who can run the offense. I’m just saying that they don’t need it as much as the second unit. And, there is only one Jeremy Lin. I didn’t see the first quarter of the game, so I’m not sure how Howard faired without Lin. That would be the main concern with using Lin as a sixth man, since Howard is now a big focus for the Rockets. And that all depends on how well Harden can work with Howard.

Against the lowly Pelicans, the Rockets second unit looked discordant on both ends of the court, but against a great Pacers team, the second unit looked like stars for the Rockets, all because Lin was running the show. There was a lot of cohesion and guys like D-Mo looked great. There’s a lot of talk about Beverley’s defense. And there’s no denying the amount of effort that Beverley puts forth on the defensive end. But what is often overlooked is that Lin is also a great defender. What separates Lin from Beverley, on the defensive end, is that Lin is an all-around great defender, while Beverley is just great at harassing his man. Lin is good at harassing his man, but he also understands spacing and has excellent instincts on the defensive end. This is how Lin gets so many steals. He’s able to anticipate where the ball is going and he knows when to lay off his man and focus on helping out on another man. Of course, sometimes he gets caught and looses his man. But this is just the risk you take if you are trying to help out on defense. All this is to say that too much is made of needing Beverley’s defense to start the game. I think that’s total bogus. The ONLY reason why you wouldn’t start Lin is not because of Beverley’s harassing defense (i.e., Beverley’s main strength), it is because of Beverley’s main deficiencies (i.e., running the offense). Like I’ve said in the past, Beverley and Toney Douglas are like twin brothers to me, but Beverley is just a better Toney Douglas. I never saw Toney Douglas as a Point Guard. He’s just an under-sized Shooting Guard and that’s EXACTLY what Beverley is. So when he’s the only guy running the offense, then you’re in trouble. This is why it makes sense to use Lin as a sixth man. Again, the main concern is how Howard does without Lin. Only time will tell.

Lin may also be able to up his scoring average playing as a sixth man. And Lin does look even more aggressive playing with the second unit, because he no longer has to defer to Harden. So it could be a very good thing for Lin to be the sixth man in the same way that Ginobili is the sixth man for the Spurs and in the same way that Harden was for the Thunder. What this means is that Lin needs to finish nearly all if not all of the games this season.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this season is Linsanity 2.0. Lin looks really good. And if you don’t see this, then you’re still blinded by your preconceptions of Lin. He was able to work on his game injury-free in the off season and he looks ready to play. If Lin wasn’t the third or fourth option on a team, Lin would be averaging All-Star numbers. I know many will scoff at this as being Lin fanaticism. But if Lin manages to average 14.5+ scoring this season and 5.5+ assists as a third or fourth option with a low usage rate, then those are All-Star numbers, because he would be averaging 20+ and 8+ assists if he was on any other team that didn’t have two superstars (one of whom needs the ball in his hands, just as much as Lin).

Anyway, that’s a whole other discussion. The most important part about Lin being sixth man is that he needs to finish nearly all if not all of the games this season. And this is where the whole McFale/Lin dynamics comes into play. If McHale uses Lin as a sixth man and lets Lin finish nearly all if not all of the games this season, then using Lin as a sixth man is not influenced by the whole McFale/Lin dynamics. If Lin doesn’t finish games, then this is ALL about the McFale/Lin dynamics. I don’t care how McHale wants to spin it in press conferences, saying that he needs Beverley’s defense at the end of games. The truth is, Lin every bit as good of a defender, because Lin is an excellent all around defender, whereas Beverley is an elite on-ball defender. So there’s no reason to not let Lin finish games, unless you have your blinders on and fool yourself into thinking that Lin is not a good defender because there’s no way some Asian from Harvard can keep up with NBA players.

I think McHale and the coaching staff is honestly still trying to figure out whether or not they want to start Lin or Beverley. So I don’t think they’ve made up their minds. And I don’t blame them, because it really is a difficult decision. The Pacers game in Manila does give a lot of credibility to using Lin as a sixth man to run the show with the second unit. I think it does make the Rockets more dangerous as a team. Rockets are going to have the deepest bench in the NBA and I think they’ll have a top offense and a top defense. This Rockets team looks so scary, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they end up winning the whole thing. No one expects them to, but I just don’t see how any team is going to stop this Rockets team, as long as there are no major injuries. But this is a whole other discussion.

Apparently, McHale will be alternating their starting positions throughout the pre-season, so Lin will start in Taiwan. I don’t mind this experimentation and I think it’s smart for McHale to use the pre-season to test out different lineups. That’s one big part of what the season is like and when you have a deep team like the Rockets do, that becomes even more critical. I just hope that once he figures it out, he sticks with the same starters for nearly all if not all of the regular season games. I don’t think it’s good to keep switching lineups at whim. At least this is my initial bias. That being said, I do expect McHale to continue to play with the starting lineup during the regular season. Who knows, it may be good strategically to keep starting lineups fluid. I just think it might have an adverse effect on team chemistry. But I’m sort of open to it. At the end of the day, all I care about is that Lin finishes the games and plays 30+ minutes a game. If McHale allows him AT LEAST that, then Lin will take it from there. Thank you very much.

Jeremy Lin Looks Great in First Scrimmage Footage

Check out the first scrimmage footage by ClutchFans!

Jeremy Lin looks really impressive. I would say that he was the best player on the court during this scrimmage. He played aggressively and had so many assists in a very short amount of time. Brooks was also impressive. TJones and DMo looked good. Howard was solid and so was Harden. Parsons was the most disappointing. I’m concerned that Parsons is letting his new found fame get to his head. This is a bold prediction by me, but I think Parsons is going to struggle early in the season, unfortunately. His shot doesn’t look as good as it did last season. However, if he does struggle I think it’ll be very short lived. I’m confident that he’ll be back in form after a dozen or so regular season games. Hopefully, he’ll get in gear in the preseason. Parsons has always been very mentally tough to me. So I’m counting on his mental toughness to not let his new found fame get to his head.

Even More Important for Lin to be THE Floor General this Season

Last season I wrote a post about how Rockets are more dangerous with the ball starting out in Lin’s hands during end of game situations. Well, this season, with the addition of Dwight Howard and the emergence of Parsons as a near All-Star, it is even more critical for the ball to start out in Lin’s hands not just in end-of-game situations, but for the majority of the game. The reasons I gave in the post I referred to last year become magnified even more now that we have two superstars and a near All-Star in Parsons.

Harden is an elite scorer, but Lin is still a better floor general. Lin is all about the ball finding the optimal scoring situation, whereas Harden is more about scoring the ball himself. But the Rockets are no longer a one-man team (not that I thought it was last season). Now we have four great scorers in our starting lineup (Harden, Howard, Lin, Parsons), so we need to have the ball in the hands of the guy who’s all about the ball finding the optimal scoring situation, Lin. Lin was like this even back in high school. This is the creed that Lin lives by as a baller. Also, as the season progresses, I’m sure Howard is going to figure out that he’ll have more opportunities to score if the does PnRs with Lin vs. Harden, since Lin is an even more willing passer than Harden is. So if McHale wants to make Howard happy, he should let Lin be the main distributor. I just hope McHale figures all of this out. If not, then Rockets won’t be as good as everyone expects them to be this year. But if they do figure this out and Lin’s usage rate surpasses Harden’s then Rockets will be in the Western conference finals and I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up winning the whole thing this year. It always takes time to gel, of course, but they’ll gel much quicker if Lin is allowed to be THE floor general. I just have very little confidence that McHale will let Lin do what Lin does best. I think it’s more likely that McHale will decrease Lin’s role even more and let Beverly take away even more minutes from Lin this season. Let’s hope McHale wakes up.

A recent article, pointed out to me by one of our readers CH, speaks to the importance of letting Lin be the main distributor on the team. I have written about many of the points that this writer makes in his article, so just wanted to highlight it for you all who may have not seen the article. I’m glad to see someone in the somewhat mainstream media echoing a lot of things that I’ve been writing about here.

Just the Beginning

Rockets fell short, last night, and ended their playoff run, but it’s just the beginning for this young squad of talented, hard-working, unselfish players with high basketball IQs and high character. It’ll be interesting to see what type of moves Morey is going to make in the off season. I do expect them to go hard for Dwight Howard, but I think that’s a mistake. No doubt, Howard is full of talent, but he lacks all of the other traits I listed above, except maybe high basketball IQ. I think he’ll mess up the chemistry of this team and chemistry is critical in team sports. I mean, he seems to make enemies everywhere he goes. It’s no coincidence that Metta World Peace spent the playoffs complimenting big men in the league, such as Asik, Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan through his tweets. I think that had a lot to do with MWP’s disappointments in Dwight Howard as a teammate. But I’m looking a little too far ahead.

What happened in last night’s game is exactly what I expected to happen in Game 5. I also had a strong feeling that KMart would shoot the lights out in his former building, so that didn’t surprise me at all. Scott Brooks finally went of panic mode and allowed the Thunder to play without over-relying on Durant. He let Jackson be the point guard and it paid off. Although, when Rockets went out to a 10 point lead in the third quarter, I thought Rockets had a real shot of doing something special. The Lin haters are going to have a lot of ammunition from this game, because it did seem like once Lin (and the second unit) stepped onto the court, the energy drained out of the Rockets. Lin played really tentatively, which is totally understandable. And it wasn’t like he did anything to hurt the Rockets, but all of a sudden the intensity that the Rockets had to open the game went away once Beverly, Garcia and Parsons checked out. At least that’s how it seemed to me. Lin ended up with a minus 18, which is the worst on the team. Normally, +/- per game doesn’t say much, but I felt Lin’s +/- did accurately reflect his impact on the game last night. It felt, to me, that Lin played longer than 13:26 minutes. I was surprised McHale played Lin as much as he did, but looking at the minutes from the box score, that looks about right.

Rockets were also hurt by Garcia’s foul troubles. One foul occurred before the ball was even in-bounded. They didn’t replay the foul, so have no idea if that call was legit or not. Beverly also got into a little foul trouble and ended up playing only 32:41. Also, I think Harden’s strep throat was really bothering him in this game, because he didn’t look like he had much juice out there. I think he was too tired to drive and ended up settling for threes, but this time, he didn’t shoot as well as he did in Game 5.

Anyway, the season is over, but there’s a lot to look forward to. I hope Lin stays with this team, because I think they got something really special here. I’m sure Lin is looking forward to the off-season to continue to hone his game, as well as all the other Rockets guys. Lin still has yet to get real playoff experience, so his season didn’t end on a high note. It’s all the more motivation for him to do everything he can to get back here. Such bad luck for him to be healthy the entire season only to not participate in the post season, once again, and then to be back on the court in a losing effort. But now that Lin doesn’t have an injury to deal with in the off-season, he’ll get to really work on his game. I want to see him back with a deadly long range and a range of individual moves to the basket. I want him to incorporate the short jumper and be better at drawing fouls. It’s actually a good thing that Beverly got a lot of attention in the postseason, because that’s just more motivation for Lin to work even harder in the off-season. I think he feels a little like he’s fighting for his job, again. And that hunger is what you need to keep getting better.

The Rockets will be back stronger next season. There’s no doubt about that, with all the cap space they have. Hope Morey uses it wisely and doesn’t just go out and get big names  just to get big names. Also, I hope they keep Garcia. He’s the veteran voice that the Rockets need on this team. Of course, all of my readers know that I prefer Garcia over Delfino. I’m glad Garcia got to finally play major minutes in the post-season, because I believed in him ever since I saw him play just a few minutes for this team (I hadn’t seen him play at all before he came to the Rockets). I also believed in Beverly’s defense and energy the first time I saw him play. I have no doubt that they’ll keep Beverly. For Beverly to improve, he’ll need to be more of a floor general. We’ll see if he can develop that in the off-season. I really like Asik as our center, so I hope it stays that way. Marc Gasol is really the only center I’d replace Asik with. I’m sure Asik is going to work on his ability to catch and finish around the rim this off-season. He’ll probably never be able to develop this aspect of his game at a high level, but hopefully he can keep getting better at it. There’s no doubt that he’ll work hard at developing it. That’s for sure. All these young guys will get better next season, now that they have a taste of their future. I’m especially curious to see what Parsons becomes next season. Can he get any better? Right now, he’s better than I expected him to be, so in my eyes, if he gets any better that’s just a bonus. I’m sure we’ll see guys get traded this off-season, but I expect the core to stay. The only two core guys who could be in jeopardy of being traded are Asik and Lin. Asik, because Morey is probably going to try and get Dwight Howard and Lin because he might be part of any deal that brings in a big name player. Also, now that the Clippers have been eliminated in the first round, talks about Chris Paul are heating up and I’m sure the Rockets are going to be involved. Harden is going to do his job and try to recruit hard for Chris Paul. After Lin’s non-performance in the post-season, I think Morey has more motivation to try and go after Chris Paul. So, it should be an exciting summer. Hope you all enjoy your summers and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the season and this off-season. If anything interesting happens with Lin this off-season, I hope to see you here to discuss. Thanks for following me  through a very exciting season. It wasn’t quite Linsanity, but better in some ways, because I wasn’t just cheering for one player, I really enjoyed watching this entire team playing team ball.

Rockets Put in a Valiant Team Effort to Take Care of Business and Push a Game 6

This is how I expected Game 4 to go. With Harden back in form, Rockets did what I expected them to do in Game 4. But I did not expect the hobbled Rockets to win Game 5. Things didn’t look good at all before Game 5 started: Harden was under the weather, Lin was still unlikely to play and Asik is still dealing with back issues. I expected guys like Sefolosha to step up and I expected Martin to have a solid game. But OKC played without any energy and no one else but Durant (and later Jackson) could get anything going. Rockets, on the other hand, had pretty much every player going. Parsons had a poor shooting night, after a stellar performance in Game 4 and Smith, again, didn’t do much (but he also didn’t play much). Delfino had to leave the game with an injured foot or something. But Harden was back in form and got his shot back. He nailed his first 7 threes (tying an NBA playoff record held by Robert Horry) and ended up shooting 7 of 9 from three point. He hasn’t had a shooting night this good for like over a month or so. Ended up with a very efficient 31 points (10 of 16 from the field) with 8 rebounds, 3 assists and ONLY 3 turnovers. Asik, due to OKC’s fourth quarter Hack-Asik strategy ended with 21 points on 13 of 18 free throws (that has to be a record for Asik) and 4 of 6 from the field. Garcia was the third leading scorer with 18 points. He helped keep Durant scoreless in the fourth quarter, which is the first time Durant has ever been scoreless in the fourth quarter in the playoffs in his NBA career! In all, every single Rockets player was in double figures, except for Smith and Delfino, who barely played. So it was a great team effort. This is the way the Rockets have to play. Just keep the ball moving, keep bodies moving and be aggressive on the defensive end. I think they played their best defense tonight–at least the best that I can remember.

I thought OKC would get over their overcompensation for losing Westbrook, but it looks like they’re still scrambling. Their over-reliance on Durant is really shooting the confidence of their other players. Kevin Martin went 1 of 10 from the field, which is pretty much unheard of for him. I hope OKC continues to stick with their panicked strategy and keep their focus on Durant. The more Durant gets the ball at the top of the key, the better, in my opinion. But I can’t blame them for their strategy, because his teammates really struggled.

I’m sure Rockets fans were thrilled to see Brooks play some major minutes. He went 4 of 11 from the field, so not very good, but did provide a lot of energy. Beverley also had a pretty solid contribution with 14 points and 8 rebounds, but only had 1 assist in 39 minutes. Brooks had 3 assists in 19 minutes. So, for those who think the Rockets don’t need Lin, I think they’re of the mindset that 1 good thing that Beverly does = 4 good things that Lin does and 1 good thing that Brooks does = 16 good things that Lin does. I think it’s more over-enthusiasm that these guys haven’t dropped the ball in Lin’s absence, but Rockets do need Lin. Right now, they’re playing playground ball and are able to get away with it. Also, without Westbrook, Lin isn’t needed as much for this match up, since Beverly and Brooks can compete with Fisher and Jackson. I’m sure McHale isn’t in too much of a hurry to have Lin back and if they can win without Lin, then that’s great, because they’ll need Lin healthy for the next series.

What’s awesome about the Rockets, and what makes them so fun to watch, is that they play team ball. This is why the last few games of the season were so painful to watch, because they went into Harden Hero Ball mode. This Rockets team has a lot of players who can step up at different times. This is what makes them so dangerous. Rockets played with so much confidence tonight. As long as they continue to play with this much confidence, yet with a lot of hunger and energy and continue to play team ball, they have a great chance of pulling off something that’s never been done before in the NBA. Already, they’ve become only the 14th team in NBA history to force a Game 6 after being down 3-0. According to Ultimate Rockets, there has been 109 series that have started out 3-0. I find that pretty hard to believe that only 14 teams have forced a game 6 down 3-0. And I’m amazed that no team has come back down 3-0 in NBA history. I mean, you figure in all those years, some team must have done it. Rockets have a great shot, now that they’ve got the momentum. They need to stay hungry and not let up. OKC is scrambling and as long as OKC continues to scramble, Rockets have the best chance of doing the impossible. They’re in a great situation now, as long as different players continue to step up. I have a feeling Brooks will get even better in the next game and he’ll have to step up, since I’m pretty sure Lin will still be side-lined. I don’t think McHale trusts Lin enough to put him back in, even if Lin is healthy, because McHale doesn’t want to mess with the lineup right now.

NOTES: The smart play award goes to Harden with the play where he waited until the ball went across half-court to touch it and then launched a quick three so Rockets could get a 2 for 1 possession. That’s some high basketball IQ right there. And Asik gets kudos for not crumbling under pressure and sending a message to Scott Brooks that they need to come up with something better than Hack-Asik.

Rockets are still alive! I didn’t think it would happen, but what a great feeling as a fan. Time to make history!

Parsons Prevents Harden from Helping OKC Sweep Rockets, Rockets Still Alive

I predicted that the Rockets would take care of business tonight. When I made my prediction, I didn’t factor in how detrimental Harden would be to the Rockets tonight. If it weren’t for Harden’s numerous turnovers, Rockets would have taken care of business. In the last few regular season games, Harden has been toying with a double-double in turnovers. Well, tonight, he finally got this double double with 10 turnovers and 15 points. I think the record for turnovers in the playoffs is 11. Harden ended with just one shy of a record no one wants.

So, because of Harden’s awful performance, the game, once again, went down to the wire and, as usual, Harden messed things up again down the stretch. But this time, Rockets defense prevailed and Parsons and the rest of the Rockets prevented Harden from helping OKC sweep the Rockets. I think Harden’s bruised leg or whatever must be bothering him, but that doesn’t explain some of his reckless turnovers. Hope he gets some rest and is back in form in Game 5. McHale still hasn’t figured out that iso Harden is going to kill them down the stretch. I was actually happy when Harden had 5 fouls and stayed out of the game tonight. I thought he was a liability more than a help tonight.

With the exception of Harden, every Rockets stepped up, exactly how I expected, which is why I predicted that they’d take care of business. But Harden, being a major part of the team was the factor that dragged the entire team down and caused this game to be a lot closer than it should have been. That being said, OKC played pretty well. They had their guys step up, like Martin and Fisher. I actually did expect Martin to play well tonight, but Fisher was the x-factor as Fisher usually is in big games. I thought Rockets would contain Durant tonight, but that didn’t happen. Durant played a very efficient game and ended with 38 points on 12 of 16 shooting. This guy is pretty good.

The big hero for the Rockets was Parsons. That’s another guy that is under-utilized because of too much reliance on Harden. Parsons is a guy that has stepped up in big games all season long. He ended with 27 points and had more field goal attempts than Harden. I think that’s a first. Parsons was 11 for 21 from the floor (3 of 6 from three point). But he did more than just score. Parsons had 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Played a complete game with lots of energy and aggression. He’s been doing better with each game during this playoff series. Hope he can stay close to the level he played tonight. Delfino showed up tonight with a couple of nice steals and had an efficient shooting game. Every single Rockets showed up tonight, but Harden (and Smith was pretty quiet, as well, but he didn’t play much). Aaron Brooks got the most minutes he had all season and the crowd went wild, as expected, when he hit a three. I thought McHale’s rotation was excellent tonight–especially since he had to juggle so many Rockets players in foul trouble. Come to think of it, his rotation was probably good, BECAUSE he had to juggle players in foul trouble. He couldn’t just play a couple of guys to the ground and ignore the entire team. It’s no coincidence that McHale actually does a better job of coaching when he’s FORCED to not rely on only a few players because of injuries and such. So the fact that I thought he did a good job with his rotations tonight, because he had so many players in foul trouble is probably not a sustainable model going forward.

Tonight, because McHale had no choice, he rotated players exactly the way I wanted him to rotate players. Part of me thinks that if Harden didn’t get into foul trouble, Rockets may actually end up losing this game, because McHale would have played Harden to death even though Harden was clearly playing hurt.

Beverley had a quiet, but solid game, which is unusual, because when Beverley has a nice game, it’s usually not very quiet. But I thought he did a good job of being in control tonight and did the things that were needed of him, like driving aggressively to the paint to make plays. He also hit a couple of threes. Overall, a solid showing. Only 3 assists, but assists is not really Beverley’s game, anyway. That’s more of Lin’s thing. Asik had his best game in a while and ended up being the second leading scorer (with 17) for the Rockets. I’m not sure if that’s ever happened. Maybe once or twice this season. He also had 14 boards, 8 of which were offensive rebounds.

Now, the stage is set for Linsanity. Lin just needs to watch his movie that debut at Sundance, while he’s recovering from his Chest injury. Needs to get his confidence back, before he steps on the court. I’m not sure if he’ll be recovered by Wednesday, though. We’ll see. Without Lin, I don’t think Rockets have a chance of winning Game 5. Harden needs to get back to being a superstar and play within the flow of the game, rather than trying to take games over. He’s been struggling with his shot for the past couple months. It’s been getting worse and worse, yet, Harden still plays like his shot is still good. I hope he gets his shot back, at least for one night in Game 5 and redeem his awful performance tonight. He almost lost the game for the team and he knows it. A fierce competitor like him should step up in the next game. Hope that’s enough time for him to take care of his bruise.

Rockets Will Take Care of Business Tonight to Avoid a First Round Sweep

I was only able to catch the tail end of the fourth quarter of Game 3. Man, what a heart breaker. But I guess it would have been a bad loss for either team, because if Rockets won, then Thunder blew a 26 point lead. But, once again, the game was within reach for the Rockets, but couldn’t come up with the win. Game 3 was especially heart breaking, because Thunder won it down the stretch with luck. They got a lucky bounce on the Durant three and they benefited from multiple unforced turnovers by Rockets down the stretch. So I didn’t feel like Thunder won the game like they did in Game 2. When Garcia hit that three to put the Rockets up, I thought Rockets would come up with the win–especially when Durant’s three bounced like 5 feet in the air. I have no idea how that ball dropped in. That was just so deflating.

I was glad to see Garcia out there in Game 3, even though it was probably due to Lin being out. Like I’ve been saying this in this blog over and over again, Garcia offers the same spacing that Delfino provides, but Garcia is a more reliable player and all around better player than Delfino. I think if McHale had played Garcia instead of Delfino, Rockets would have won Game 2. I liked Delfino before he messed up his elbow, but ever since he got injured, he hasn’t been the same player and is pretty much taking up valuable minutes out there on the court. Garcia is not only more consistent with his shot, he’s more selective with his shot and is a better defender. This is total hindsight, but Delfino should have passed the ball to a wide open Parsons for a potential game-tying three in the last possession, instead of forcing up a highly contested three that had little chance of going in. But I can’t blame Delfino for that. I think the play was probably drawn up for him and the clock was winding down. So he did what he could. That being said, remember that Lakers game (the last game of the season) when Lin had the composure to pass it to a wide open Parsons with the shot clock winding down and Parsons tied the game up to put it into overtime? That’s what I wanted Delfino to do. But the game shouldn’t have even come down to that. Rockets basically handed the game to the thunder by essentially giving them the ball time and time again down the stretch. That was pretty ridiculous (especially the Harden no look intended for Garcia), even though Rockets ended up with low turnover numbers for the game.

Of course, there’s a lot of talk about whether or not Lin should have played. From his performance it looks as if the chest injury is still bothering him significantly and he probably shouldn’t have played. But that’s a tough call. It’s pretty much a lose-lose situation for Lin. Don’t play and people say you’re weak, play and struggle and people blame your for losing the game. I was surprised to see that Lin ended up playing 18+ minutes in Game 3. I figured that he and McHale would be able to gauge his condition after like 5 minutes out on the court or something. I think Lin should have just shut it all out and made the decision to bench himself once he figured he wasn’t going to help the team out on the floor. It also would have prevented him from getting it aggravated by Durant before halftime. Because it didn’t work out very well with Lin playing in Game 3, I don’t expect him to play in Game 4.

Anyway, I think the Rockets have the ability to beat the Thunder–especially if they have a healthy Lin. This series should be 2-1. Tonight, I’m guaranteeing a win for the Rockets and I don’t think it’s going go down to the wire. I think Rockets will take care of business and win without too much drama. It won’t be a cake walk, but I don’t see it being a tight game with constant lead changes going down to the wire, either. I’m expecting Rockets to be leading the majority of the game and end up winning by 7+ points.

I know Lin is a game time decision and most likely won’t play, but I’m still guaranteeing a Rockets win, simply because Rockets will be very focused tonight, because they know they’re better than the way they have been playing. They are going to play hard and get their frustrations out on the court.

Beyond tonight’s game, Rockets’s success will depend on Lin’s health. I think if Lin is healthy and can play in Game 5 the way Lin is supposed to play, then I think Rockets can push this series to 7 games and may even do the impossible and win this series. But without Lin, I think OKC will win this in 5 games. So that’s basically my outlook for the Rockets. It would be quite a story if Lin could come back in Game 5 and pull off some Linsanity and help the Rockets advance to the second round. That would redeem Lin’s first playoff appearance, which has been a very frustrating one for Lin so far. (He looks totally deflated in the interviews.) But as long as Lin stays with the Rockets, there will be many playoff appearances to come.