For a night, the Jeremy Lin that captured Knicks fans last season was back — 34 points on 21 shots, 4-of-5 from three, 7 assists. Linsanity returned, for a half. The Rockets needed someone to step up because James Harden, his beard and his bum ankle were sidelined.
And it was fun, one of the most entertaining games of the season.
But it wasn’t enough — San Antonio still executes like San Antonio in the fourth quarter. And that was enough to pull off a comeback, force overtime and then win in the extra time, 134-126.
Jeremy Lin was the focal point of the offense and had a nice first half (3-of-7 shooting), but in the second half he looked like his old aggressive self and his shot was falling — 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and he got to the line six times. He came off the pick and found space to attack the defense, or hit jumpers over the top of it. He finished with 38, tying his career high. But what was the real key is that Lin, who has struggled taking care of the ball all season, turned it over just twice. His shots may not fall like this every night, but if he’s taking care of the ball his value goes up.
The Rockets also got a huge game from Omer Asik, who had 21 points and 10 boards, plus seemed to be everywhere. That propelled the Rockets out to a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter and the looked headed for the upset.
Then it happened — a 12-0 Spurs run that got them up to a three-point lead.
Then the game turned into 1980s Denver Nuggets shootout for a while.
Chandler Parsons hit a three for Houston to tie it. A couple possessions later Parsons hits another three. After a Lin missed jumper Gary Neal hit a no-arc three in transition to tie it. Parsons answered with another three — his third of the quarter. Tony Parker came through with a twisting layup. A few possessions later Parker hits a cutting Manu Ginobili for a layup. Lin drains a long two pointer. Ginobili drains a three behind a Tim Duncan three. A couple possessions later Lin goes all Curly Neal and dribbles in circles until he finds Asik who hits a Duncanesque 15-foot bank to tie it.
Both teams had a chance to win it in regulation. For the Rockets, Jeremy Lin tried to isolate on Danny Green, but Green shut him off and forced a 24-second violation.
“I was calling (Asik) up and (Lin) waived him off he went four flat,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale lamented after the game, saying he wanted Lin to have the pick. “But he played fantastic, had a great game.”
The Spurs got a last shot with five seconds on the clock and had Duncan attacking in isolation from the wing, driving into the lane, but some good defense from Asik and we were headed to overtime.
In overtime, the Spurs were the Spurs — a relentless execution machine. The rockets did not take advantage of their opportunities — Asik got the smaller Green switched on to him but still took a seven-foot jumper rather than backing him down, Carlos Delfino pulled up on a fast break and let the defense set, and the dagger was a Ginobili and-1 where he suckered Parsons into the foul then hit the layup left handed.
San Antonio was led by Tony Parker who had his first career triple-double: 27 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists.
In the end the Rockets have things they can hang their hats on in this game. Not the defense, but a lot of other things. Asik played well and continues to build a strong resume as a starting center. Lin looked like his old self. Chandler Parsons and the Rockets role players stepped up. There are building blocks there.
For the Spurs, it’s another win in a long season of them.