For some reason, when the lights are bright, and when all eyes are on him, Jeremy Lin always gives his best performance. With the eyes of the entire country of Taiwan watching him in Monday’s 107-98 Houston Rockets pre-season win over the Indiana Pacers, Lin returned to the form that began his stardom.
The oos and ahhs of the crowd depended on every time Lin was involved in a play, and it was plenty, as he finished with 17 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals in 34 minutes.
“I walked out and everyone was looking at me,” Lin said. “You’re walking out to warm up early and everyone is like ‘Aaaaagh.’ I was pretty nervous before the game, way more nervous than in the Philippines.”
The Rockets ran their first play for Lin, a screen that set him up for a wide open 3-point shot from straight away, where he amply swished it. Lin was all over the court after that, driving to the rim, dishing out assists, throwing alley-oops on fastbreaks, jumping passing lanes, and even swatting a Danny Granger lay-up attempt on a fast-break.
“All I could do was smile,” Lin said. “I was like, “I can’t believe this is happening.’ I’ve never done that in my career in a real NBA game. I’ve done it in practice, but in a game, I’ve never spike it that hard. I started laughing, not at him, but at everything that had happened.”
While James Harden lead the Rockets with 21 points, and Francisco Garcia, making his pre-season debut, finished with 15 points off the bench, it was Lin who remained the star attraction.
“Jeremy played well,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “He’s been playing very well the last week, 10 days in our games and practice. I think he’s really comfortable with who he is. He’s lost weight. He’s quicker. He played well again tonight, but he’s played well in practice. It’s always nice when guys play well in practice and it carries over to games.”
The ironic thing about Lin’s great play throughout the pre-season is that it could very well solidify him to start the season on the bench as the 6th man. Patrick Beverley did not make too much of an impact, finishing with 2 points and 5 assists in 22 minutes. While Garcia, Omri Casspi, and Donatas Motiejunas were the only reserves to finish with double figures, the Rockets still lack a play-maker off the bench.
But that decision will come at another time. For now, the Rockets enjoyed their front row seats to the Linsanity show.