As Jeremy Lin ‘10 and the Houston Rockets (eighth seed in the Western Conference) make their way through the NBA playoffs, The Back Page will provide game-by-game updates on Lin’s play.
Although Lin’s New York Knicks made the playoffs last year, Sunday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder represented his first taste of the postseason. Lin sat out last year’s series nursing an injury, but this year took the court for a young Rockets squad that dropped from the seventh to the eighth seed on the final game of the season, drawing the conference-leading Thunder instead of the a San Antonio team which finished 2-5 in its last seven games.
This meant that instead of being matched up against San Antonio’s Tony Parker, who is recovering from an ankle injury, Lin drew the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, who averaged 23 points, seven assists, and five rebounds this year. Westbrook dominated Lin in the first matchup of the first-round series, making seven of 15 shots on his way to a near triple-double on the offensive end while hounding the Harvard graduate into a night where he had as many turnovers as points (four).
Lin struggled to stop Westbrook from getting out in transition the entire game, with his turnovers repeatedly leading to long outlet passes from the athletic Thunder guards that led to easy points on the fast break. Oklahoma City finished with 24 fast break points and 21 points off of 15 Rockets turnovers. On the other end, Lin’s improved jump shot deserted him (one for seven overall, no makes from three). With the rest of the offense struggling (the team shot an uncharacteristic 22.2 percent from three-point range), there were few opportunities for him to get open looks at the basket.
The series resumes Wednesday in Oklahoma City, where Lin and company will try to salvage a two-game split before heading back home to the Toyota Center, where the team was 31-12 on the year.