Jeremy Lin has been doing fairly well lately against some pretty good point guards. (Photo : Reuters)
A lot can be said about Jeremy Lin's performance in the first half of the regular season, and it's largely mixed reviews.
On the one hand, he's been phenomenal at times-brilliant, even, on occasion-and on the other hand, he's also been inconsistent, struggling to find a solid rhythm on offense that can last.
As of late, Lin has gotten on another one of his hot streaks, averaging 17.6 points and 5.8 assists on 50.8 percent shooting since Jan.30 through his last five games. That stat could be easily dismissed as just another upward tick on the roller coaster statistical season that Lin has been having thought the first half of the season that has yielded him 12.6-point, 6.1-assist benchmarks just a week before the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston next Sunday.
However, what makes this streak different is something that would have to be measured by the quality of competition both he and the Rockets have faced lately. More specifically for Lin, it's been in the kinds of point guards that he's been playing.
On Jan. 30, in 31 minutes of action, Lin had a great night, leading Houston scorers with 22 points with five assists as the Rockets beat the Nuggets 118-110. Opposing Lin? Ty Lawson, one of the best young point guards in the West, averaging 15.2 points and 7.0 assists this season.
Six nights later, in his best performance of this stretch, Lin shot 10-of-16 from the field and dropped 28 points and nine assists in a game against the Golden State Warriors--including five of Houston's 23 three-point shots--in a 140-109 Houston win. And Lin did it against Stephen Curry, one of the top 10 scorers in the NBA, and a player that some critics argue should have been selected to play in next week's All-Star Game.
And on Friday, Lin held his own against rookie sensation and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard, the two matching each other almost evenly the whole way. Lin scored 16 points with four assists while Lillard had 18 points and six assists as the Rockets beat Portland 118-103.
In facing off against some of the league's better guards this season, Lin has stood out more often than not.
He didn't do so well against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in bother of Houston's games against them this season (six points against them Nov. 28 and seven points against OKC Dec. 29), but some of Lin's finest moments have come against the league's best point guards.
Facing off against Tony Parker, who has been one of the finest point guards in the league for the last decade, Lin scored a season high 38 points against him and the Spurs on Dec. 12 and 21 points in their second meeting on Dec. 29. He had a strong night playing East All-Star Jrue Holiday and the Sixers on Dec. 19, scoring 18 points with six assists. Against last year's Rookie of the Year and 2013 All-Star Kyrie Irving, Lin scored 20 points against Cleveland on Jan. 5. And facing future Hall of Famer Steve Nash and the Lakers on Jan. 8, Lin scored 19 points with five assists.
This young and primed Houston team has an offense, ranked second best in the NBA with a whopping 106.0 points scored each game, which is a thing of beauty to watch and a fearsome thing for an opponent to stop.
"They're one of the toughest teams to guard," Wade said of the Rockets after their game on Wednesday.
For a young team looking to grow and get better, having your starting point guard hold his own against some of the best at the one-guard spot is crucial. And for a team that relies so much on fast and furious play and pick-and-rolls, the point guard position becomes that much more critical.
Which is why Lin's upped play against the game's more reputed point guards is such a big deal. A good floor general has to be fearless in calling the plays and coordinating the offense, particularly when the Rockets are in a Western Conference with guards the caliber of Westbrook, Chris Paul, Parker, Nash and Curry, to name a few. Lin has been looking rather promising when tested against a good portion of statistically better point guards.
But the excellence that has been expected of the aforementioned point guards relies on one major factor-consistency. The best point guards these days are finding ways to score, but more importantly, they're finding ways to win. Westbrook has found consistency with both, which is why his team went to the Finals last year. Parker has, too, which is why he's wearing three rings. Paul has, which is why the Clippers are battling for the top record in the league.
With time, Lin will get the experience. By that time, he could find a way to make his numbers more consistent. Until then, his best friend should be relentless aggression on the court. He needs to find a way to keep attacking the basket aggressively on offense, which would open up scoring opportunities not only for Harden, but for guys like Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson, capable scorers who will be left open if the opposing defense is too busy figuring out how to stop Houston's backcourt.
All of these things take time and chemistry, of course, and Lin probably won't get there this season. But the fact that he's bringing out his best against some of the league's best floor generals is a pretty good sign of things that might be coming soon.