Jeremy Lin is having a truly awful series against the Thunder. The Rockets point guard is averaging 4.3 points, 2.7 assists and 2.3 turnovers per game while shooting 25 percent. This despite playing 24 minutes per game and getting all three starts. He's also now dealing with a chest injury that limits his usefulness. After a season in which he was pretty much average, he's been totally ineffective in the postseason. And the Rockets are now done 0-3.
Houston should have won Game 3 at home, but the lack of contribution from a hobbled Lin and the overall point guard deficiency felled the Rockets. Overall, the team got around Lin's limited availability and even more limited production: Kevin McHale elected to start Patrick Beverley alongside Lin and James Harden for the second straight game in an attempt to add ball-handling. Beverley wasn't nearly as good in Game 3 as in Game 2, though, particularly in spreading the ball around. So the point guard duo in the starting lineup produced just four assists in 40 minutes. That puts lots of pressure on the designated scorers -- Harden and Chandler Parsons -- to create on their own.
Harden can do it, as he's proven all season. Only two of his nine made field goals were assisted, and he provided six assists for his buddies with only two turnovers. Parsons took advantage of those assists and shot well (8-12), and had seven assists of his own. But he also had five turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City cranked in on defense and the shots stopped falling for both teams. The Rockets began to attack in the final minutes ... and ended up with four turnovers for the quarter. The Thunder, despite missing their own point guard Russell Westbrook entirely, had zero. That's the difference in the game: those four possessions would have swung the result the other way if assigned differently. Two of the turnovers were particularly bad passes by Harden, his only two giveaways of the night.
This isn't to say the turnover result would have been different with a healthy Lin (who didn't play in the fourth); Lin is particularly turnover prone himself. But having someone to handle the ball and initiate the offense comfortable when buckets get tight is important. Despite spending a whole lot of money on the position last July, Houston doesn't have that right now. It's costing them a chance to win a game or two in this series. And seriously, if Lin can't offer more than he did in Game 3 while injured, he shouldn't be playing injured. Aaron Brooks, who got nine minutes in Game 3, hasn't been very productive for Houston this time around. But he can at least play freely, which an injured Lin cannot.
The question is whether Lin's totally average season will lead Daryl Morey to go after a point guard in the 2013 offseason, or if he'll instead concentrate on picking up an established power forward or bolstering a shallow bench. Again, Lin's injury can't be ignored. But the lack of point guard production and extra pressure on Harden and Parsons on Saturday was impossible to ignore.
It could be worse, though. Just watch the Lakers' game on Sunday!