Why Jeremy Lin Should Get More Playing Time in Second Half of Houston Rockets’ 2013-14 NBA Season

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If there’s one thing about Jeremy Lin that’s consistent, he knows how to make the best of any opportunity.

On Tuesday, with James Harden out of action due to injury, Lin once again stepped in and did what he has made a habit of doing when the Houston Rockets have asked him to do more-he delivered.

Against division rival and NBA Finalist the San Antonio Spurs in a big-time match-up, Lin delivered for 44 minutes, shooting 5-for-13 with 18 points, 8 assists and a block for the Rockets in a big 97-90 win against a team they have spent much of the first half of the season chasing in the Southwest Division standings, the Rockets (30-17) now only four games back from the 33-12 Spurs.

On Wednesday, in another Texas matchup against Dallas, Lin delivered again, scoring 18 points and 7 assists in 37 minutes, including a 57.1 percent night from the field and going 2-for-3 from three-point range, as the Rockets edged out the Mavericks in a 117-115 win.

And Lin’s performance couldn’t have come at a better time for the Palo Alto, Calif., native, who has seen his minutes and points decline in the last few games after Patrick Beverley came back.

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In the seven games before Beverley came back, Lin was averaging a respectable 14.1 points with 5.1 assists on 49.3 percent shooting over 36.9 minutes. However, since his return, Lin’s stats across the board have plummeted over the last six games before Tuesday, the Asian-American point guard averaging only 8.2. points and 3.5 assists over 26.1 minutes. His shooting had also gone cold, Lin hitting only 36.2 percent from the field, and a paltry 26.7 percent from three-point range, during that time. But clearly, as his performance on Tuesday has shown, Lin can still rise to the occasion when counted on.

 

Lin has been asked to fill in at several points during the season whenever Harden, Beverley or others in the starting lineup have been out of action, and he’s answered the call with poise, relentless energy and a lot of heart. At the start of the season, Lin was particularly hot, scoring 15.3 points off the bench, along with an effective 49.3 percent shooting percentage from the field over 30.1 minutes. He had found his stroke from the field, as well as his confidence, and more importantly, his playing time. Then he had a stroke of bad luck in late November when he came suffered from a knee sprain, and later, back spasms, and missed some playing time. Then he picked it up again in late December when he began scoring in double-digits over nine games, though it was clear at points that he wasn’t quite in sync just yet.

However, the lack of playing time has clearly been a factor in Lin’s scoring taking a dive since the start of this season. Harden’s latest injury (thumb) might give Lin more minutes and shots over the next few games, but that will inevitably shrink back to their normal, average levels once Harden comes back into the fold for Houston.

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Granted, it’s hard for anyone not named James Harden, Chandler Parsons or Dwight Howard to get a good amount of shots on Houston’s high-energy offense (tied for fifth in the NBA with 105.0 points), but with the Rockets not doing things on the defensive end (21st in the league, allowing 101.6 points a night) Houston’s only option, if they are not going to focus on stopping teams with their “D,” they have to start looking at maximizing their offense to its most efficient. Beverley is admittedly a better defensive player than Lin at the moment, but he’s never been a terrific offensive player, and Lin easily bests Beverley in that category, particularly in shooting. Need further proof? Over the last two games, while Lin scored 18 points in each of those games, Beverley scored a mere 11 points in 33.0 minutes for those games. While Beverley might have had three steals in those two games and can stick to tough targets like Tony Parker, one player playing well on defense isn’t going to make up the difference for the Rockets.

And considering that the rest of the Rockets’ bench isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with firepower (Lin is the only bench reserve averaging double figures in points) Houston could do well to exploit Lin’s offensive talents by giving him a few more shots per game. And considering that Lin has been shooting 46.1 percent for the season thus far, chances are that Rockets coach Kevin McHale will be rewarded if he places a little more faith in Lin’s ability to shoot the ball with more opportunities, more minutes and more shots in the second half of the season.

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Credit:Jean-Paul Salamanca

 

 

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