(HOUSTON, TX) A mix of boos wafted over Toyota Center as Jeremy Lin checked into the game.
The same fans who were calling for Lin to be benched during crunch time, and even calling for his job after a miserable Game 4, were giving him and his teammates a standing ovation by game’s end. Lin scored 21 points and the Rockets defiantly defended their home court, staving off elimination with a 108-98 win over the Blazers.
“Game four was definitely a rough one,” Lin said. “I didn’t really sleep much that night. The last few days I just keep reminding myself to stay faithful and trust in God’s perfect plan.”
Lin was remarkably efficient. He shot 9/15 from the floor with just 2 turnovers.
Yes, the bonehead Lin mistakes were there, but so were all the things that made so many fans fall in love with him during his “Linsanity” run two years ago. He dove for loose balls, was aggressive on defense, and came up with timely baskets early and often.
“I kept telling him ‘Linsanity,’ ‘Linsanity’. Just have the confidence and belief that he can go out there and do it,” Dwight Howard said after the game.
Howard was terrific in his own right. Despite first half foul trouble, he scored 22 points and added 14 rebounds and 3 blocks. Chandler Parsons chipped in with 20 points. James Harden was big down the stretch, scoring 8 of his 17 in the final frame to help the Rockets finish the job.
Now, they’re just one win in Portland from forcing a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday.
“All it takes is a little bit of faith mixed with some work and we’ll be fine,” Howard said.
The Rockets led 30-27 after the first quarter, their energy and urgency much improved from the start. They started the second quarter with an 11-0 run to take a 41-27 lead. Portland responded with 7 straight of their own before the Rockets ripped off 10 more unanswered points to take a 17 point lead. Lin was a big part of it. By halftime, Portland had the lead down to 56-48.
Keeping with the theme of watching big leads disintegrate, the Rockets huge lead was trimmed to just 1 point midway through the 4th quarter. Then, it was James Harden’s time. Harden scored 8 points in the final 4 minutes to help the Rockets pull away for good. It was, perhaps, his best moment in the series.
Those 8 points not only fueled the Rockets final burst, but also matched the total output of LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge, who came into the game averaging 35 points per game (and 44.5 in the first 2 games at Toyota center) shot just 3/12 from the floor. Omer Asik was relentless defensively throughout the ball game, keeping Aldridge out of his comfort zone.
Kevin McHale said of Asik, “He’s a very very smart basketball player, and if you’re playing against a guy like Aldridge, you’ve got to be smart. Aldridge moves around and makes you guard at different angles and Omer did a really good job of that.”
Now it’s back to Portland for Game 6. Only 8 teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. Winning three straight versus a playoff team is never an easy task.
However, it’s no longer three straight games the Rockets must win. It’s only two. They’ve already won in Portland once. Doing it again will require the same attention to detail defensively and an ability to silence the crowd by building a lead early… and keeping it.
The Rockets nearly blew their entire 17 point lead, a problem which has haunted them all series.
“We’ve learned the hard way this series,” Parsons said.
Fortunately for them, they’re still in a position to correct it. The pressure is back on the Blazers to close out the Rockets and avoid a return trip to Houston. For the Rockets, the mindset is simple, if not cliché. One game at a time.
The Rockets need one win, and they need it on Friday night.
Follow Danny Mata on Twitter: @dannymatajr
Not in Our House: Rockets Take Game 5, Top Blazers 108-98 [LISTEN] was originally published on news92fm.com