The Houston Rockets got a much needed victory in Game 3 over the Portland Trail Blazers, in large part because of James Harden‘s not-so-efficient 37 points and the solid point guard play of Jeremy Lin off the bench. Patrick Beverley gets all the publicity (and starts) because of his defensive abilities, but he’s not much of a distributor. Should Jeremy Lin start Game 4?
Lin is far removed from his “Linsanity” days of putting up 30 points, 10 assists and four steals, but while his statistics are struggling, he’s becoming a better facilitator. In Game 3, Lin played 33:24 and scored 13 (on 5-for-11 shooting) with four rebounds and a team-high six assists.
The starter (Beverley) scored 16 with nine rebounds and just one assist. The fact is, the Rockets play the pick-and-roll with Harden as the ball handler so much that Beverley doesn’t get much of a chance to rack up assists. However, when Harden and/or Dwight Howard aren’t on the court, things change.
We all know that Lin is best when he’s playing a confident style that allows him to freely create plays (also often in the pick-and-roll). The Rockets have run the pick-and-roll 19.79 percent of the time, which is the most run play by them. However, at a miserable .62 points per possession, they are dead last in the playoffs for that metric.
One of the problems with Lin in the pick-and-roll is that he doesn’t get the benefit of having Howard as his pick man as much as Beverley or Harden does. Instead, he gets Omer Asik, who is a solid player, but he’s not as good of a roll man (Howard is No. 5). During the regular season, Synergy Sports had Asik ranked No. 47 as the pick-and-roll man, averaging 1.07 PPP. The problem there is sample size — he took just 34 shots.
We can be sure that Lin would see an uptick in production if he were to start over Beverley. In addition, Beverley has shown the ability to knock down shots and could be a nice spark off the bench. The real problem we run into is defense.
Beverley can’t be expected to put up huge offensive numbers when he’s tasked with slowing Damian Lillard. Synergy has Beverley as the No. 120 overall defender, but he’s a sparkling No. 12 against the pick-and-roll ball handler. Lin is No. 223 overall and just No. 100 against the pick-and-roll.
The fact is, coach Kevin McHale would have to decide whether the defensive sacrifice would be worth whatever else Lin could bring to the table. Could Lin take some of the pressure off of Harden so that he could get better shots or would he simply knock Harden off his rhythm?
We know Harden is a guy who needs the ball in his hands and needs to take shots. We also know Lin is the same type of player in a sense that he’s not going to excel at being the off guard, running up the wings waiting for the ball.
While a lot of us would like to see better point guard play out of the Rockets and believe Lin is a better facilitator than Beverley, it just doesn’t fit the system. Lin succeeds without Harden out there and wouldn’t be the same guy. Bottom line, the Rockets should keep doing what they’re doing and ride this momentum into Game 4.