The Joy Of Six
Lin set to return as Rockets attempt to take next step on the way to history
HOUSTON - As the Rockets ready themselves for a third consecutive do-or-die showdown with the Thunder, the team learned today that they will receive some much-needed reinforcements to aid in their quest to do what no NBA club has ever done before.
Point guard Jeremy Lin has been cleared to play after the 24-year-old went through an extensive workout Thursday afternoon and emerged none the worse for wear. Lin has missed the past two games in the series with a right chest contusion suffered just before halftime of Game 2. He will come off the bench, adding another playmaker to Houston’s small-ball attack that has had a great deal of success effectively spreading the floor and generating quality looks against the Thunder’s suddenly vulnerable defense.
“I’m feeling good,” Lin said following Friday’s shootaround. “I get to play tonight so I’m happy about that. I worked out yesterday, went through some stuff and felt good. The trainers were up there watching and said as long as nothing crazy happens today I’m good to go.
“It feels great (to be back). It’s been a really, really long week so just the fact I get to play is a huge, huge burden off my shoulders.”
Lin’s return comes at a key time, especially given that Carlos Delfino’s status remains up in the air after having aggravated the bone spur issue he’s been battling in his left foot. Houston head coach Kevin McHale says Delfino is going to be examined by doctors again today before anything definitive will be determined regarding his availability for tonight’s game and for the rest of the series. That looming question mark, then, makes Lin’s impending return all the more timely.
“Jeremy feels a lot better today,” said McHale. “We’ll bring him off the bench and see how much juice he’s got in the tank. It’s always hard to enter a series when you haven’t played for a while but, hey, we’re going to try to keep what we’ve got going. We’ll definitely try to fit him in there and see how he is and see how his arm feels – most importantly, if he gets hit or anything happens.
“Playoff series end up kind of having a life of their own. To be thrown in the middle of that rhythm a lot of times is really hard … That’s why we’ve got to be a little bit careful. Jeremy hasn’t played in a while and not only has he not played, he hasn’t been able to shoot or do anything with any kind of contact for a week or so, so that’s always hard.”
That sort of degree of difficulty, however, surely pales in comparison to what the Rockets are attempting to do as a team. Six days ago it appeared their season was on the brink of ending. Now they have new life and the knowledge that a rabid, raucous Toyota Center crowd awaits them tonight, eager to propel them back to Oklahoma City for an opportunity to make history – no small thing for a team that entered this postseason with such a dearth of playoff experience.
“No matter what happens in this series,” says Chandler Parsons, “we feel like we’ve proved that we can play with anybody. We’ve competed, we’ve fought, we never gave up and we’re a scrappy, young, resilient team. We believe in ourselves and we’re confident and this is a process so I think there’s no better experience than what we’ve gone through as a team in this series, just being the 8-seed, playing the No. 1 seed, getting a tough road win, getting a home win – we’ve experienced a lot and as this process goes on I think we’re only going to get better and better every opportunity we get.”