Jeremy Lin's Importance Highlighted During Roller-Coaster Series with Thunder

Alex Kay@AlexPKayCorrespondent IApril 28, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 21:  Head coach Kevin McHale of the Houston Rockets talks with Jeremy Lin #7 during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena on April 21, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Thunder defeated the Rockets 120-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are down three-games-to-none against the Oklahoma City Thunder in their first-round playoff series. Not coincidentally, Jeremy Lin has struggled mightily and clearly isn’t 100 percent healthy.

A quick look at the numbers will reveal that something is up, as Lin is averaging just 4.3 points on 25 percent shooting (11.1 percent from three-point range), 2.7 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 0.7 steals in 23.7 minutes per game during the series.

Compare that to his regular-season output—13.4 points on 44.1 percent shooting (33.9 percent from beyond the arc), 6.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals—and you can glean that the Rockets depend on Lin to win ballgames.

ESPN reported that Lin is suffering from a bruised chest, and it’s undoubtedly hindering his ability to make shots, handle the ball and effectively make a positive impact on the floor.

Even after Russell Westbrook—a hyper-athletic guard who is a tough matchup for Lin—went down with a season-ending torn meniscus (h/t CBS Sports), Lin wasn’t able to contribute anything meaningful.

In fact, Lin’s two-point, one-assist performance in 18 minutes of Game 3 action was arguably his worst showing of the 2012-13 campaign, regular season included.

This slump has put a heavy burden on James Harden and the rest of the Rockets’ supporting cast, and it’s just too tall a task against the No. 1-seeded Thunder.

Remember, OKC handily beat Houston twice during the regular campaign and it took a superhuman effort from Harden (46 points, seven rebounds, six assists) and Lin (29 points, six rebounds, seven assists) to narrowly edge the eventual Western Conference champions back in February.

Not many expected the Rockets to win this seven-game series, but if Lin were healthy and playing at the top of his game, it would at least be competitive.

If there is anything for Houston fans to take away from this, it’s that the Taiwanese-American point guard is extremely important to this club’s chances of winning a title in the future.

He has to remain healthy and productive during the 2013-14 campaign and hopefully be able to contribute to the Rockets’ next postseason run. Despite his immense skills, Harden certainly isn’t able to shoulder the load by himself.

As long as he gets back to full health and continues improving, the 24-year-old Lin could help the Rockets reach even greater heights next year—and hopefully assist them in winning their first playoff series since 2009.