The Houston Rockets topped the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 to keep their second-round hopes alive. After the game, every fan was educated on Troy Daniels, the rookie who made the game-winning three-point shot, but Jeremy Lin was the play’s unsung hero.
With the game knotted at 116 in overtime, James Harden drained the clock to about 20 seconds before making his move. Harden casually held the ball on the wing, but had it knocked away when he tried to split two defenders. The ball was taken by Mo Williams briefly, but after it slipped out of Williams’ hands, Lin dove to the ground for it.
In what was an absolutely genius play by Lin, instead of possessing the ball with two hands on the ground, he instead dove on the ball, pushed himself up, and grabbed the ball, allowing him to dribble. Lin then attacked the lane with his left hand, as LaMarcus Aldridge, who had been leaking out on the fast break, sprinted towards him. Instead of trying a contested runner or forcing a lob to Dwight Howard, Lin tossed the ball over his shoulder to the wide-open Daniels, who nailed the long ball.
Yes, Daniels deserves a lot of credit for being able to step onto the court in crunch time and nail a three, but that shot would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Lin’s play. The first time I watched it, I gave most of the credit for Daniels, not having fully noticed what Lin had done on the ground (keeping his dribble alive), but the more I watch the play, the more I appreciate what Lin did.
As Houston heads into Game 4 in Portland, there’s no doubt that fans will be hearing a lot about the clutch play that Daniels made, but few will be talking about Lin’s heads-up play that led to the shot. At this point, it’s not about the glory for the team, and Lin has probably been given more recognition than he deserves in his young career, but to me, that was the greatest play Lin’s made in his career.
Most players never get to make plays like that in their careers, on the big stage, on the road, with their backs up against the wall. I have a reputation for not liking Lin (an untrue reputation; I mostly just argue with people who say things like, “Behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant, I wouldn’t take anyone over Lin right now.” Yes, that was an actual comment), but I’m not trying to appeal to those people right now.
So many times in sports, we see the star who makes the shot, the receiver who catches the touchdown, the power hitter who hits the walk-off home runs. However, we tend to neglect the guy who draws two defenders and throws the pass at the perfect time; the lineman who protects the blind side or the possession receiver sucking in the safety with the underneath route; the lead-off guy who put the game-tying run on second and relayed the sign to the power bat at the plate.
As fans, we rarely collectively see the whole picture, so all I’m trying to do is give credit where it’s due. Bottom line, Lin deserves a lion’s share of the credit for Daniels’ game-winning shot. Houston is going to need both guys to be at their best if they want to even the series Sunday night.