Moving Jeremy Lin to the bench was an admittedly gutsy move by Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale, and that’s why it has received so much attention over the past two weeks. It’s not so much that this decision was controversial on the merits, as it clearly needed to be made. However, because of Lin’s popularity and taking into account the role envisioned for him when he was signed last year, selling it understandably required a bit of finesse.
Unfortunately, because Patrick Beverley got hurt immediately upon getting inserted into the starting lineup, Lin couldn’t really settle into his reserve role until now. Coming off a rough game against the Los Angeles Clippers, his worst game of the year by far, the 25-year-old bounced back strong against the Toronto Raptors as led his squad to a double overtime victory.
The numbers from that Raptors game speak for themselves: 31 points on a very solid 10-of-17 shooting, 3-of-6 from behind the arc, etc. But what was really special about Lin’s performance is how it proved once and for all that him being a reserve only helps his game, it doesn’t hurt it. He played 46 minutes total despite not starting the game, and he was on the court for every meaningful possession.
Moreover, there is a reasonable case to be made that the reason why Lin was able to get into such a comfortable groove was because he didn’t have to deal with chugging along as the first unit did their thing. He got to come in and be instant offense.
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From the Rockets’ perspective, not having Lin on the floor at the beginning of the game allowed them to really clamp down defensively. Then, by the time he entered, they had already frustrated Toronto to no end.
Moving Lin to the bench and Beverley into the starting lineup was a great, great move. Here is to hoping that injuries don’t screw things up going forward.