Linsanity Not Enough to Prop Up Ailing Players, Defense

Two games. Three overtimes. One win.

After gutting out a win over Toronto in Houston, the Rockets lost in a single overtime to Philadelphia. In both games, Jeremy Lin was on fire, shooting a combined 20-38 from the field, 12-21 from three-point range, dishing 14 assists and scoring 31 and 34 points respectively. He hit a franchise-tying record 9 three-pointers in Philly and has more points in this two-game stretch than in his career including the 28-game Linsanity in New York.

But even with his offensive output, the team has struggled, primarily on the defensive end of the floor and in the training room. Several players, including Patrick Beverley and Francisco Garcia, have been suffering with the flu, and James Harden missed Wednesday's game with an assortment of nagging injuries.

Even with players down, the biggest issues were on the defensive end of the floor, where the Rockets have been abysmal, particularly on the perimeter.

Teams are killing the Rockets from behind the arc and routinely getting into the paint against them. This was particularly true in Philadelphia, where former Rocket James Anderson went off for 36 points including a game-tying three-pointer that sent the game into overtime. It also hasn't helped that the Rockets are dead last in turnovers, with another 20-plus-turnover night Wednesday.

Even more troubling has been the combination of bad starts and comebacks allowed. The Rockets tend to either dig themselves a hole early or allow teams to get back into it late. In order to remedy the slow starts, they switched out the lineup Wednesday, replacing Omer Asik with Terrence Jones. Jones played most of minutes in the two overtimes against Toronto and has generally seemed more active. Against the Sixers, he scored 10 points, had 11 rebounds and blocked 3 shots.

Much of Jones's improvement has been on the defensive end, where he too often looked clueless before. While he hasn't exactly turned into a world-beater on that end of the floor, his overall improvement is noticeable and the fact that he has entered the starting lineup, never mind Asik's conspicuous four minutes on the floor Wednesday, is a pretty good indication the twin towers experiment is officially over.

Tonight they head back to the scene of Linsanity Part 1, Madison Square Garden, to face a struggling Knicks team. New York has been brutal offensively. In fact, both New York teams have had disappointing starts while Philadelphia, a team everyone thought would be awful, has wins over the Rockets and Miami already in the young season.

Unfortunately, the Rockets face the Knicks the day after an overtime loss. Hopefully, Harden can return and provide some fresh legs for the national television game. If not, the Rockets could drop to .500 before heading home to face a series of seemingly winnable games. But so far this season, who knows?

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