The hallmark of a true pro is how fast they can put bad news behind them and move on. Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets seem to understand that as they relied on that professionalism against the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday Night in game 5.
After the Rockets lost in Portland for Monday night's game 4, Lin and his teammates were exhausted and upset by the game. A costly late game turnover and some missed shots put a lot of the blame on the exhausted point guards mind, as he struggled to understand what went wrong.
"I think Game 4 was definitely a rough one," Lin said. "I didn't really sleep much that night."
But by the next game on Wednesday, Lin had moved on. The Rockets' needed their pro point guard to step up, and that's exactly what he did. When the Rockets needed him, he made timely buckets, and good decisions leading the team. Lin finished the game with 21 points, four assists and three rebounds on the way to a 108-98 win that kept the playoff series alive.
"I felt like I needed to be more of a spark tonight," Lin said. "I haven't done a great job of that this series."
Lin entered the game with just over six minutes to play in the first quarter, and he jump-started the Rockets as he got the ball moving. He had four assists in the quarter, and charged the team to an 11-0 run in the first half.
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In the second half, Lin started putting the ball in the basket, and gave the Portland defense fits as they tried to figure out which way he was going. He was driving to the basket, zipping in for layups and, most importantly, making shots he had missed in game 4. It was the best post season performance of his career.
"He had these two big 3-pointers at the end of possessions as the shot clock was ending," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Those were big momentum plays for them and they took a little bit out of us."
Portland guard Wes Matthews said that Lin's aggressive play was a difference-maker in the game.
"It seemed like Jeremy Lin hit big shot after big shot," Matthews said after the game. "He was attacking the rim, hitting shots. We have to do a better job defensively on him."
Lin said he let the game's tempo lead him, and that he just went with the flow of it.
His professionalism, and clutch play was not lost on His coach, Kevin McHale, either. Mchale had been under scrutiny since Lin's poor performance in game 4 from those calling for more playing time for rookie Troy Daniels.
"We needed him," McHale said. "They were trying to pressure him all over the place and he broke the pressure down and got in the paint and hit a couple floaters."
As the Rockets head to a must-win Game 6 in Portland tonight, Lin hopes to keep the flow he found Wednesday going. In fact, he hopes to find the same kind of success he has had in Portland before. On March 9 Lin scored 26 points to help the Rockets to a key win that won them the season series against Portland and homecourt advantage in this series. An advantage they have since squandered, but one that will be a big bonus if they can find a way to win tonight.
"After the last game, I was really upset and I just believed and focused," he said. "Now we have to believe in each other and try to get another win in Portland."