The Rockets had been playing their best month of the season until the Indiana Pacers visited the Toyota Center on Wednesday, dropping their March total to 8-2 overall. With two strong playoff-bound teams scheduled for Friday and Saturday, the Rockets could really do some damage to their current playoff position (currently seventh, three games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers).
A key for Houston will be getting guards James Harden and Jeremy Lin back on track. The Rockets’ starting back court was pretty lackluster on Wednesday and although Harden still managed a team-high 22 points, the Pacers were able to limit his penetration ability and force the All-Star into a 6-for-24 night from the field.
Houston will have difficulty with the Grizzlies and the Clippers if either side is able to use their inside height in the same manner the Pacers did. Roy Hibbert was able to establish a huge presence in the middle early on many Houston offensive possessions and in turn reduced Harden’s effectiveness at the ring.
Both Memphis and Los Angeles possess massive front courts capable of imitating the Pacers’ defensive tactic and sinking the Rockets into an early hole.
Lin has been in a ghastly slump over the past three games, failing to break double-digit points in any of those contests. He is averaging just six points and five assists per game during that period and has contributed more than three turnovers per game.
Lin obviously struggles sharing the ball with Harden and is most effective as the primary option on the offense. It’s pretty easy to shut Lin down — opposing teams recognize that his effectiveness is limited with stringent on-ball defense, hedging on the pick-and-roll and cutting his driving lanes away as much as possible.
In all honesty, Lin isn’t perfecting these faults this season, and he’ll have to find a way to remain as effective as possible as the Rockets look to secure the seventh or better seed in the Western Conference.
Robert White covers the Houston Rockets for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @RobertWhitebrrr.