Rockets guard Jeremy Lin showed signs of clutch play during Wednesday's game against Dallas. Is he developing into a crunch-time player? (Photo : Reuters)
There weren’t many bright spots to look at during the Houston Rockets’ fifth straight loss, dropping a 105-100 heartbreaker to their Southwest Division rival Dallas Mavericks Wednesday.
Once again, the Rockets’ defense was their undoing, allowing Dallas to pour on 53 points in the second half after the Mavericks outscored them 52-44 before halftime. Turnovers also sealed their fate, Houston committing 16 turnovers--half of them committed by their starting backcourt--which the Mavericks turned into 24 points.
Yet, amid the dark cloud that is looming currently over the Rockets, there was a silver lining.
Jeremy Lin, who scored 19 points, showed his poise during a large chunk of the final quarter, leading a Houston comeback that was nearly successful. With the Rockets down 93-82 late in the fourth quarter, Lin sunk two free throws and back-to-back drives to the basket, powering Houston to a furious 15-4 run that tied the score at 97.
And down 99-97 with 1:02 remaining, Lin drew a foul that gave the Rockets the chance to tie the game. Granted, he missed on that and turned the ball over in the final seconds, but Houston, on a night where Harden looked mortal with only 20 points on an atrocious 5-of-23 shooting night, wouldn’t have even gotten to that position without Lin’s late-game heroics.
After the game, Mavericks sub Elton Brand called Harden “one of the best finishers in the league.” Having Lin, however, gives the Rockets not one, but two clutch players who aren’t afraid of the “Big Shot” when it comes to taking it with the game on the line, or when to step up when their team needs them to the most.
Having a closer, especially in the shoot-outs that Houston has been finding themselves in without solid defense, is especially valuable. As Lin has shown on Wednesday and in other times during this season and the last, he has that rare ability, as well.
Let’s take a look at some of Lin’s finer moments of clutch play during his career:
1. Sinking Toronto with A Three-Point Buzzer Beater, Feb. 14, 2012
Just on the cusp of the start of “Linsanity,” fans were beginning to take notice of Lin after a string of five games where he has scored 20 points or more while the Knicks rattled off five straight wins. Not done yet, Lin gave fans one of his most memorable moments in the nine seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Knicks game at Toronto against the Raptors, waiving off his teammates as he line up behind the three-point line and sunk a three that broke the tie and gave New York their sixth win in a row.
2. Lin puts up 38 points against San Antonio, Dec. 10, 2012
With James Harden sitting out with an ankle injury, Houston’s chances against the red-hot San Antonio Spurs didn’t seem so good without their leading scorer.
Becoming Houston’s top offensive option that night, Lin responded in a big way, putting up a scorching 38 points as he drove to the lane at will against San Antonio as he kept the Rockets neck-and-neck with San Antonio the whole night. And while Houston lost the game 134-126 in overtime, Lin’s game showed that the Spurs that he could be a force to be reckoned with in clutch time.
3. Lin comes up big against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Feb. 10, 2012
By this point, Lin was only three games and six days into his improbable run from sub to superstar and the Knicks were without their big star Carmelo Anthony, who was on the shelf due to injury. With the Knicks needing a big game from somebody with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol rolling into Madison Square Garden, Lin came up big, scoring 38 points with seven assists as he led the Knicks to a stunning win over the Lakers, 92-85.
4. Lin comes up big late against Los Angeles, Jan. 8, 2013
With the Lakers outscoring Houston in the first quarter, Lin put up a sensational second half, delivering 16 of his 19 points in the second half as he and Harden combined for 50 points en rout to a 125-112 Houston win.