The Houston Rockets’ 2013-14 season will be on the line when they take the court Wednesday night in Game 5 against the Portland Trail Blazers, but there will be even more at stake for point guard Jeremy Lin.
Houston may be the better seed, but it is Portland holding a 3-1 lead in the series. The poor play of Lin is far from the only factor holding the team back, but it certainly isn’t helping matters.
Lin is posting nightly averages of nine points, 4.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds during the postseason in 28 minutes a game, but it is his late turnovers and drops in shooting percentages that have proven particularly costly.
He shot 45 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the three-point line during the regular season, but he is only connecting on 36 percent of his shots from the field and an abysmal 16 percent from behind the arc in the playoffs.
To be fair, Lin is far from the only Houston player struggling with his shot, as Inside Hoops pointed out:
Lin has been completely overmatched on the defensive end of the court trying to keep up with the incredibly athletic Damian Lillard and hasn’t even contained his backup Mo Williams, who has been in the league for approximately 45 years.
Still, Houston had every chance to win Game 4 until Lin’s costly turnover in the final minute of regulation gave Portland the opportunity to regain the lead and eventually win in overtime. It was actually Williams who hit the critical three-pointer after Wesley Matthews stole the ball from Lin.
The Houston point guard blamed himself, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Should have held on the ball and called time out. I had the ball underneath. I saw a lot of players. I figured they were going to come and trap me or put me in a tough situation underneath the hoop along the baseline. I just wanted to get out somewhere away. Whoever hit the ball away, I didn’t see it coming. That’s on me.
Given the fact that Lin lost minutes to Patrick Beverley this season and has struggled so dramatically in the postseason, his career as a Houston Rocket could come to an end with another poor performance in Game 5.
Lou Ramon Aguila of International Business Times suggested that Houston could look to create some space for the marquee free agents on the board this offseason by getting rid of Lin:
Although the team is on the brink of elimination, many analysts predicted the Rockets to stay the in [sic] upper echelon next season. Moreover, the team is set for another big offseason with names like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng up for grabs.
As for Lin's future, many already look forward for a divorce to happen after this postseason. His career as a Rocket is most likely over, as a change in venue could help him rebuild the linsanity brand.
Regardless of this possibility, it was a testament to Lin’s leadership that he took responsibility for Game 4. He will come out with the appropriate level of intensity Wednesday and put extra emphasis on protecting the ball.
It won’t help Lin keep Lillard out of the lane, but avoiding turnovers down the stretch will help Houston win Game 5 at home.
And all that means is that Lin will face the same pressure cooker in Game 6 back in Portland.
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