Houston won the game however, despite getting the W, there were lots of holes in Houston’s game. Indiana simply experienced too many shooting cold streaks and gave the game away.
The format for the game is Houston’s starters played the first and third quarters and the back up players the second and fourth quarters. And, Jeremy played with the back up players.
The first 30 seconds of the game is indicative of how the starters performed for the rest of the game. Beverley brings the ball up court and drops it off to Howard at the top of the key. Howard dribbles the ball into the paint and is guarded by three players which leaves Harden wide open for a three. Instead of dumping the ball off to Harden, Howard forces up a shot and is blocked by Hibbert.
Houston gets the ball back, and Harden decides to hold onto the ball until the shot clock is down to 2 seconds. Then, Harden pulls up for a shot but a defender puts a hand in Harden’s face, so Harden is forced to pass to Parsons who then throws up a bad shot because there’s only 1 second left on the shot clock.
These two sequences all happened within the first 30 seconds of the game. No set plays. No read and react. Just two stars holding on to the ball for too long. Symptomatic of the rest of the game for the starters. However, the starters were able to get huge plus on the +/- in the first quarter because Indiana couldn’t buy a bucket for the first half of the first quarter. Houston was up by 12 before Indiana got their first FG.
There’s not much to say about the rest of the game because it was rather boring. But, I strive forwards. Jeremy ended up with only plus one for the game. But, he really did much better than what the +/- indicates. This is what happened.
Jeremy and Dmo entered the game with about 2 minutes left in the first quarter. Then, Hill, George and Watson hit 3pt FGs in successive possessions. So, immediately, Jeremy is hit with a -9. Parsons got a lay up and Harden ended the quarter with a pair of free throws to get Lin’s +/- down to -5.
Casspi, Covington and Brooks comes in at the beginning of the second quarter with Jeremy and Dmo staying in the game. This group played good defense but couldn’t convert on offense. Jeremy got a couple of his passes picked off. DMo dropped a couple of interior passes, he couldn’t finish any of his fancy post moves in the paint and, Casspi couldn’t connect with any of his shots.
Houston offense gradually turns it back on during the latter half of the 2nd quarter when the players created some space for Jeremy to penetrate twice to break the defense down for FGs, freethrows and setting the tone for the rest of the quarter. And, around the 6 minute mark, DMo finally gets a dunk on a fast break but ends up getting tripped on his way down, lands on his wrist and had to leave the game but would return in 4th quarter.
By the end of the first half, Jeremy’s +/- is at -4. Jeremy sits out the third quarter and plays the fourth until there’s only 3:20 left in the game. During the fourth quarter, Houston starts the same way it did the second, slowly. It’s quite frustrating because DMo continues to blow excellent passes given to him in the paint and the shooters weren’t hitting their 3s. However, with about 5 minutes left in the game, Houston’s ball movement came alive, finally! Houston had given up most of its lead but was just starting to claw the lead back. But, Covington came into the game for Lin, and the team remained hot through the end of the game: Casspi hits another 3 and DMo connects with a few tear drops in the paint to increase the lead further.
So, although Lin ended up with only a +1 for the game, the back up team actually played better in terms of defense and spreading the floor and ball movement. Lin’s +/- suffered because he came into the game just when Pacers were getting hot and leaves the game just when Houston was getting hot. So, that explains the rather dismal +/-.
Q2 and Q4 highlights after the second team got hot.
Other notables. Dwight Howard pretty much played the same way he did last year with the Lakers. Good defense but possible liability on offense. His post ups were mostly stopped and blocked. He holds onto the ball for too long. None of his perimeter shots dropped. His free throws were dreadful. And, he wasn’t looking to pass except he did connect with Parsons twice when he slashed into the paint. (Howard has a hamstring injury but played through it.)
I think McHell really needs stop pestering his point guard and start laying it into the two star players for reverting back to isolation plays. Only reason why they won is because Pacers’ scoring was streaky and was cold for most of the night while the back up players were able to extend the lead.
Ok, as to the elephant in the room regarding Lin not starting, I think it’s Chris Finch’s idea to have him play without Harden for half the game and see how it will turn out. I think it’s a great idea because all Lin does when he plays with Harden is stand in the corner. By staggering Lin’s minutes away from Harden’s minutes, Lin can lead the second team and be the floor general finally. McHale can gradually have more confidence in Lin if he can demonstrate that he’s a capable floor general by leading the second team successfully. Otherwise, McHale will forever think Lin is all hype and Linsanity was only two magical weeks that will never happen again.
That said, the caveat is Lin benefits from playing with the second team instead of the first because the star players are not willing to play team ball as called for by the Houston coaches who are trying to instill a team oriented read and react system in lieu of the isolation plays that stops the ball and prevents Jeremy from creating open looks for teammates. So, playing with the second team is not a good option but merely a lesser of two evils option.