Jeremy Lin is back in the spotlight.
The question is, can the Houston Rockets trust him there?
Lin, who’s come off the bench for 36 of his 63 games, is back as a starter due to Patrick Beverley‘s torn meniscus injury. With the 49-25 Rockets fighting for playoff seeding in the Western Conference, they’re now relying on Lin to carry them from the point guard position.
So far, Houston seems to be struggling with Lin running the show. The Rockers are 1-3 in their last four games, with the only win coming against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. For this stretch, Lin is chipping in 14.0 points and 3.7 assists on just 31.7 percent shooting from the field. For the year, he averages 12.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 28.9 minutes a game.
The Rockets are currently fourth in the West, and are barely holding off the Portland Trail Blazers for home-court advantage in their likely first-round matchup.
Houston must now rely on Lin, who they’ve often bounced up and down the rotation this year, notes culturemaphouston.com’s Chris Baldwin:
What’s truly bizarre is where this injury leaves the Rockets. They need to lean on Lin as their playoff lifeline after a season spent taking shots at his confidence. The way Lin’s been treated is dizzying. From starter to sixth man to . . . sometime seventh and eighth man. All the while Jeremy Lin still put up some crazily good games — rescuing the Rockets with his defense on Spurs All-Star point man Tony Parker on Christmas, popping off the bench to deliver a triple double against Cleveland, blitzing Portland for 26 points. No matter, his time would be reduced with no notice, no logic.
It’s worth noting that Lin has needed to fill in for Beverley before.
Beverly suffered a fractured hand back in late December and would go on to miss 14 games. The Rockets, led by starting point guard Lin, finished 9-5 in that stretch.
How were the Rockets still able to find success with Lin? Efficiency and defense, mainly.
Lin didn’t blow up the stat book with his scoring and assists, and he didn’t need to either.
During these 14 games, Lin averaged 12.8 points and 4.3 assists while playing excellent defense and moving the ball. His defensive rating was an impressive 101.3, down from his season average of 108. His ball-handling was also improved, as Lin’s 2.6 turnovers per game were an improvement over his overall average of 3.1.
With James Harden as a backcourt mate, Lin doesn’t need to put up the 18.2 points and 7.7 assists he did as a starter with the New York Knicks back in 2011-12. Instead, his role should be as a facilitator and defender, while doing a lot of the little things needed to help Houston win.
The Rockets have proven they can win with Lin as their starting point guard already this season.
There’s no reason to believe they can’t do it again.
All stats provided by NBA.com/stats unless otherwise noted.