Hosuton Rockets' Jeremy Lin and Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard chase a loose ball during their Saturday basketball game in Houston, which Portland won, 95-85. (Photo : Reuters)
To any Houston Rockets fans thinking that Saturday's 95-85 Rockets loss to Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers was a bad sign of things to come, Rockets star Jeremy Lin and coach Kevin McHale have a simple message-Relax, just give us time.
After starting out 2-0 behind the red-hot play of newly acquired star James Harden and Lin, the Rockets had a terrible shooting night, the box scores on ESPN show, making only 35.4 percent of their field goals, including 5-of-26 from three-point range, while turning the ball over 18 times.
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After scoring 37 points and 45 points, respectively, in his first two games since coming to Houston via a trade with Oklahoma City last weekend, Harden looked like a mere mortal on the court, hitting only 8 of 24 field goals to finish with 24 points, while Lin scored 13 on 5-of-13 shooting.
However, McHale admitted after the game that part of the problem, aside from poor shooting, was that the team needed time to gel and learn to play with each other as a unit.
"Part of the reason it looked so bad is that we have tons of point-blank shots that just didn't go in," he said in a post-game interview with NBA.com. "That just seems to drag the energy out of the guys."
"You're going to have nights like that in the NBA, you're just going to have to fight your way through it," he added.
On Harden's play, McHale noted that when his new star tweaked his ankle during the game, he didn't have his normal energy. But he had absolutely no regrets about putting the ball in Harden's hands in the final seconds of the quarter-a play where Harden didn't even get the shot off.
"At that point, I don't mind giving the ball to your top scorer and letting him flatten something out and go to work," McHale said. "James will have the ball in that situation a lot and he'll deliver a lot."
When reporters asked whether Harden would have trouble adjusting to playing additional minutes as a starter as opposed to the more limited time he spent playing off the bench with the Thunder, the former Boston Celtics great was dismissive of that notion, reiterating confidence in Harden's ability to make the adjustment.
"He'll adjust to that. That's not a major concern of mine," McHale said.
Speaking on Lin, whose play he called "solid," McHale said the team also needed to make adjustments that would free up Lin to generate the kind of explosive offense that made him a star in New York.
"We've got to get more back into our motion of pushing and getting the ball going from side to side and letting Jeremy play off of more off of a broken floor, more step-ups, just different stuff to help him, too," the coach said.
Lin hinted to reporters after the game that the Rockets, himself included, were lacking energy entering Saturday's game.
"I think today we played a little slower, I think guys' legs...I don't know, I think today, I didn't do a great job of pushing it the way I should, the way I would want to," Lin said.
However, the team would be able to benefit from an upcoming break in their schedule, Lin added. The days off, he said, would allow the Rockets to "go back to the drawing board, work on some stuff, for sure."
"We learn from our mistakes," he said. "With our youth, we're going to have to learn a lot of things. Closing games will be one of them."