The Houston Rockets were upset in Game One of their first-round playoff series with the Portland Trail Blazers. The defeat, though, came with some positives.
Jeremy Lin performed well in the 122-120 overtime loss on Sunday night. The Rockets guard finished the game with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists, making five of his 11 shot attempts. He registered 34 minutes, as head coach Kevin McHale utilized a three-guard lineup in the final session.
Lin was one of Houston’s few bright spots. He was one of only two Rockets players to enter the game and finish the night with a positive plus-minus rating. His team performed better while he was on the court, and he made some key plays down the stretch.
In overtime, Lin accounted for half of Houston’s 14 points. His layup with 53 seconds remaining gave the Rockets a two-point lead. He didn’t take a shot for the rest of the game, and Portland scored six of the contest’s final eight points.
Entering the 2014 NBA playoffs, Houston knew they would need a positive contribution from Lin. After the game, it appeared his role might be increased this series. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley sprained his right knee in overtime. The injury occurred on the same knee that caused him to miss eight games at the end of the regular season. After an MRI, the Rockets announced that Beverley is likely to play in Game Two. Still, the point guard has only played four games upon his return, and Lin will be a key in Houston’s potential run to the NBA Finals.
The most impressive part of Lin’s performance might have been the way he ended regulation. He missed five of his seven shot attempts in the first four quarters, but was undeterred in the extra session. One of those unsuccessful shots wan an embarrassing airball that went over the top of the backboard.
Lin could continue to get big minutes, if McHale stays with his small lineup. On April 12 against the New Orleans Pelicans, the coach played four guards at one time. The lineup, which included Lin, Beverley, James Harden and Troy Daniels, helped the team come back from a 15-point second half deficit.
Game One was the best game of Lin’s postseason career. Last year, he appeared in four playoff games, failing to score more than seven points in any one contest. Game Two is set for Wednesday night in Houston.