Jeremy Lin’s been off the radar during his first season in Houston. It’s a few rungs below the Sports Illustrated covers and nightly leads on Sportscenter that he experienced in New York. The meteoric rise of Lin was followed by a gradual descent to sub-par status, which is where he plateaued throughout this season.
In his playoff debut, Lin re-emerged resembling the D-League player who languished on the Knicks bench. James Harden was a one-man wrecking crew, attacking the rack all night. Lin, however, imploded. He scored just four points, dished three assists and had four turnovers.
Russell Westbrook slapped him around, offensively, but Lin appeared flummoxed by the Thunder, who forced him to shoot 1-for-7 from the field. The “real Lin” is probably hidden somewhere between Game 1 and the Lin who averaged nearly 15 points and six assists per game in the regular season against OKC.
In Lin’s defense, OKC held regular season opponents to the second-lowest field percentage in the league last season, and Harden was just 6-for-19 from the field. However, Harden’s misses came as he was forced to assume ball-handling and scoring duties. If Lin is the type to thrive with his back against the wall, he’ll come out firing on all cylinders in Game 2.
Conversely, Westbrook couldn’t even feel Lin’s presence on the defensive end, as he fell just two-rebounds short of a triple-double. It’s not a revelation to watch Westbrook outplay Lin – Russ wins nearly every matchup he get against rival point guards. But it was definitely unsettling, however, to watch 37-year-old Derek Fisher double up Lin’s offensive output in 12 minutes.
Daryl Morey probably clings to the prospect of Lin as an icon in the Asian market, and how that can help the franchise, because one wonders if Morey is still confident that Lin is the best fit to share the backcourt with Harden as the starting point guard. As a Knick, Lin was a dynamo in the pick-and-roll. Unfortunately, Harden might be the NBA’s best pick-and-roll player, and Kevin McHale puts him, not Lin, in position to take advantage of those opportunities.
So it leaves Lin and the Rockets in a prematurely tough spot. The Rockets have invested a hefty sum in Lin. Lin is holding the Rockets point guard position hostage, while the Knicks haven’t regretted his departure for a second. This season, the Knicks are flourishing with Jason Kidd’s beautiful defensive mind and a lighter Raymond Felton in their backcourt.
The Rockets are a squad on the rise, but Lin’s upside is nowhere to be found. If they don’t see vast improvement from Lin in Game 2, you wouldn’t be Linsane to expect for this to be a quick series.