Jeremy Lin scored 31 points off the bench Monday night to lead the Rockets in a tight double-overtime battle against the Toronto Raptors.
Lin showed again that he’s a starter in all but name by finishing the game with 31 points in 46 minutes of play. Though he didn’t enter the game until the seventh minute, Lin played more minutes than all but James Harden and Chandler Parsons. Remarkably, he also managed to get through the entire game without making a single assist as he exploded as the team’s main scoring threat during the game’s final 17 seesaw minutes.
Plagued by turnovers and poor shooting, Lin scored only 5 points in the entire first half. It wasn’t until late in the 3rd quarter that he came to life, scoring 10 points in the final 5 minutes of the quarter and 16 points in the 4th. He ended the game having shot 10 of 17 from the field, 3 of 6 3-pointers and 8 of 9 free throws. He also contributed 5 rebounds and 2 steals while giving up 5 turnovers.
The effort added up to Lin’s 3rd highest scoring game ever, topped only by his two 38-point games, one each for the Knicks and the Rockets. It’s also the most any Rockets player scored off the bench since the 2009-2010 season when Carl Landry scored the same number of points.
“For any player, if you can get the defense at your mercy — if you can hit the shot and drive by them — there is really nothing they can do anymore,” Lin said. “I didn’t really shoot well at all in the first half. We were all in a funk. But then we broke through in the third quarter.
“I think I would say from a pure field-goal-attempt standpoint, this is the most aggressive I have been this year. I think once you get in a zone, you are in that zone, and there is nothing that can faze you at that point.”
“Jeremy was in attack mode going in,” said coach Kevin McHale. “Jeremy is one of the few guys right now shooting with a little bit of confidence, and he made some shots. [W]e talked about it, about him coming off bench. I told him, ‘Hey, you have to just go out there and just play. You’ve worked hard all summer.’
“I think he has more bounce in his legs. He’s got more juice. He’s been playing very, very well for us. He’s just got to go out there and play. He made some big shots for us.”
Showing that kind of effective aggression off the bench may actually diminish Lin’s chances of resuming his starter role as the perception of him as another Hardenesque sixth man seems to be gaining currency in the basketball press.