With 34 seconds left in Game 4 of the Houston Rockets‘ first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, it seemed as though Houston had finally caught a break. Nicolas Batum had just missed an open three from the wing and Jeremy Lin grabbed the rebound.
With two timeouts and nursing a two-point lead, there was no reason for the Rockets’ backup point guard to do anything but relax with the ball. Instead, Lin tried racing the ball up the sideline and Mo Williams made a fantastic play to knock the ball away and keep it inbounds. After a missed shot in the lane, Portland grabbed an offensive board, swung the ball around the arc, and found Williams wide open for a go-ahead three.
Before that play, Kevin McHale hadn’t gone to Lin in crunch time. Instead, he went to the hot-shooting Troy Daniels, who was important as a floor stretcher for Houston’s offense. After Lin’s blunder, McHale went back to Daniels, who continued his hot play in overtime. Daniels finished with 17 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range, while Lin scored four points on 1-of-6 shooting with three turnovers.
The way the series has gone so far, Houston likely would have found a way to lose regardless, but Lin’s play was absolutely inexcusable. In Game 3, Lin made a similar mistake with Houston leading by three and about 40 seconds remaining. Instead of pulling the ball out and draining the clock, Lin took the ball to the basket and missed a layup.
To be fair, if Lin would have made the shot, it would have made his gutsy move pay off, helping Houston ice the game, but that wasn’t the case. Going into Game 5, McHale should continue to give Lin’s crunch-time minutes to Daniels, regardless of offense-defense matchups. The Rockets will face elimination on their home floor on Wednesday night.