Jeremy Lin, bottom left, has seen his shooting suffer in the last three games. Is it time to start worrying? (Photo : Reuters)
The last three games have not been kind for the Houston Rockets.
After going on a stretch of games where they had won 10 of their last 12, the wind was definitely in Houston's sails as they moved further up in the standings, while James Harden and Jeremy Lin began to build momentum and cohesion as one of the league's best backcourt duos.
But after losing three games in a row to the likes of Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans, the old problems that have plagued the Rockets before in the season have started resurfacing.
Turnovers are still a problem. They're having issues against defensively superior teams, like Boston who prevented them from penetrating the lane. Defensively, they can't stop opponents in transition.
And Jeremy Lin's shooting hasn't been on the mark.
While Lin's scoring and shooting averages have turned out better when he's taken more shots, in the last three games, his shooting percentage has dropped to 29.4 percent, hitting on only 10-of-34 shots. Against Philadelphia on Saturday, he shot a dismal 2-for-13 from the field and only got to the line twice.
In fact, in his last three games, Lin has scored only 28 points combined. Considering he was coming off a pair of 19- and 20-point games the week before, and weighted against the string of strong performances that carried him though the latter half of December, and it is obvious that there is a problem.
However, how big of a problem is it?
A treading-off of Lin's scoring numbers certainly hasn't been atypical this season.
Currently averaging 12.1 points in the 2012-13 campaign, Lin's numbers have been up and down since he started in Houston. He averaged only 10.2 points with modest contributions on points in November. Then in December, he started getting into a groove, the highlights being his 38-point game in San Antonio, then a 22-point game against the Knicks on Dec. 17, which was followed up seven-game stretch where he averaged 15.0 points to close out the month with 13.8 points a game.
The numbers dipped a little again in the first half of the month, Lin's scoring falling to 12.0 points--and only 9.3 points in the last three games.
The bottom line: Lin's scoring numbers fluctuating has been the theme of the season for him. He can be red-hot one game, then ice cold the next.
But if the patterns serve correctly, then it's likely that Lin could see another scoring spike sooner rather than later. Lin's game seems likely predicated on confidence. If he's feeling it, he can produce big time. If he's not, his output becomes rather average. All he needs are the right conditions and the right game, and he'll be back to being a key scorer for Houston.
Ultimately, however, the real key is going to be consistency. Lin has shown that he could be a tremendous scorer. However, keeping up that pace hasn't been something has he's been able to do for long. And without Lin scoring, that allows defenses to focus on slowing down Harden; and as the Celtics demonstrated by holding Harden to only 24 points for the first time in 14 games, that's something that can be detrimental for Houston.
In a league that is evolving into a two-star status quo, where at least two major scoring options are needed for teams to become serious contenders, Lin, 24, and Harden, 23, have the potential to be a major force for years to come.
But Lin has to find a way to elevate his offense to a consistent level; he has to get hot and stay hot. Only then can Houston evolve into the team it has the potential to be.