Jeremy Lin suffered what the Houston Rockets called a "chest contusion" in a collision with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha late in the second quarter of Wednesday's Game 2. The point guard issed the entire second half of the game, which the Thunder won 105-102 after weathering a furious fourth-quarter Rockets rally (and getting a pretty fortuitous final-minute no-call) to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Lin sustained the injury while lunging for a loose ball during a late-second-quarter scramble:
He came out to start the third quarter, but was clearly in pain and having trouble running, prompting the team's medical staff to take him back to the locker room for further examination. He would not return, finishing with seven points on 3 for 7 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and two turnovers in 19 1/2 minutes.
X-rays were negative, and Lin said after the game that he hoped to be back on the court for Saturday's Game 3 at the Toyota Center, provided the spasms subside.
After the game, Lin spoke with reporters, including Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, about the disappointment he felt after being shelved:
“This is easily the most frustrating thing that’s happened this entire season,” Lin said. “I’ve been healthy all season. The second half of a playoff game, on the road, we’re playing well, Game 2, it’s just … yeah, it speaks for itself.
“It was fine as I was sitting here at halftime. I tried to run out of the tunnel and couldn’t really run. When I did, it would go crazy. We’re supposed to just see what happens tomorrow, how it feels tomorrow. As long as stuff stops spasming, I’m good. I don’t know how any of this stuff works.”
One thing we do know works — or, at least, worked on Wednesday night — the small, Lin-less lineup of Omer Asik, Carlos Delfino, Chandler Parsons, James Harden and reserve guard Patrick Beverley that Rockets coach Kevin McHale favored after his starting point guard exited the game. That group was +12 against the Thunder in 17 second-half minutes, with the long-range shooting of Delfino and Parsons (or, given the Rockets' early-series 3-point slump, the threat of their long-range shooting) opening up driving lanes for Harden (who shot 20 free throws in the game and 13 in the second half) in the half-court and a 2-3 zone centered by Asik goading the Thunder into jumpers on the other end. That combination helped spark a 21-2 Rockets run that turned a 15-point Thunder lead into a four-point Houston advantage with 3 1/2 minutes remaning.
And while Beverley came out of the gate strong on Wednesday — putting up nine points, six rebounds and five assists in the first half of his first career NBA start, and getting into it defensively with Thunder star Russell Westbrook — he was also a big factor late, scoring seven points in the fourth quarter on 3 for 4 shooting. He was big on the glass, grabbing 11 rebounds to help Houston outrebound the Thunder 57-40 despite starting a three-guard lineup and playing super small throughout. He took advantage of openings when they presented themselves, moved the ball when they didn't, proved equal to the task of checking one of the best guards in the league and looked like a snug fit next to Harden in the backcourt that brought the Rockets back.
"He’s a hard working, really nice kid," McHale said when asked about Beverley after the game. "December he was in St. Petersburg, Russia, and now he’s starting in a playoff game — that’s a pretty good story. He’s a great kid, a great young man. He’s a tough, little guy from Chicago and he’ll fight you for it."
Given how overmatched Lin's looked throughout the first two games of the series — 4 for 14 shooting, 1 for 7 from 3-point land, six turnovers against seven assists, overwhelmed by Westbrook and, as ever, tentative moving left — it's worth wondering whether the "tough, little guy from Chicago" might have fought his way to the top of Houston's point guard depth chart for Game 3, even if Lin's spasms disappear.
Some home cooking could be just what the doctor ordered for Lin — his field-goal and 3-point percentages were about 4 1/2 percent higher at the Toyota Center than on the road, and he scored and assisted at higher rates per 36 minutes at home. But if he gets off to another slow start, it might not be a contusion that pushes the 24-year-old Harvard product aside in this series.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, feel free to check out the collision elsewhere, thanks to ClutchFans.