HOUSTON – Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin authored another chapter to the storybook tale that is his improbable professional career by recording his first NBA triple-double — and doing so in a reserve role.
Beyond that statistical benchmark, Lin provided the requisite thrust to help Houston overcome a lethargic start to the second half in its 106-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday at Toyota Center.
Lin totaled 15 points, a career-best 11 rebounds and 10 assists, completing the triple-double with an assist when Houston center Dwight Howard converted a bank shot off the pick-and-roll with 53.5 seconds left. By that stage, even Lin could not ignore the raucous crowd and team-wide effort to help him reach the milestone, even if Lin was initially oblivious.
“I didn’t know until I needed a couple more assists,” said Lin, who became the first Houston player to record a triple-double off the bench since Cedric Maxwell posted 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists against the Indiana Pacers on Mar. 31, 1988. “That’s when everyone started talking about it. Prior to that, I didn’t know.
“James (Harden) was being really unselfish. At the end of the game he was trying to get everybody involved. He facilitated that (Howard pick-and-roll offensive set).”
The Rockets (32-17) needed Lin to resuscitate their lagging effort in the third quarter, especially after the Cavaliers scored the first 11 points of the period to swipe a 63-61 lead and completely erase a 19-point deficit.
Lin entered with 8:36 left in the third and immediately keyed a 19-5 push that enabled the Rockets to reclaim a double-digit lead at 82-68.
Harden scored 28 points in his return from a two-game injury absence while Howard and forward Terrence Jones combined for 43 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. Rockets guard Patrick Beverley recorded 10 rebounds, eight assists and a career-high five steals and became the first player in NBA history to produce such a line while failing to score since steals became an official league stat in 1973-74.
“A lot of guys contributed in a positive way,” Harden said. “Obviously, Jeremy came off the bench and did a tremendous job of playing an overall great game with a triple-double. It’s a great accomplishment.”
Houston improved to 10-0 at home against Eastern Conference teams.
“You have to give credit to their two guards,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said of Beverley and Lin. “They played a heck of a game between the two of those guys. Twenty-one rebounds is phenomenal.”
Cleveland, which dropped its seventh consecutive game at Toyota Center, got 24 points from forward Luol Deng, while guards Kyrie Irving (21 points, seven assists) and Dion Waiters (19 points, four assists) also reached double figures in points. However, the remaining seven Cavaliers that played combined to score 28 points on 12-of-35 shooting.
With Harden back in the lineup, the Rockets had little difficulty scoring in bunches, reeling off an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter to seize control, before an 11-3 spurt bridging the opening two periods yielded a 35-25 lead on a transition layup by forward Omri Casspi.
Cleveland closed the half by making 9 of 14 attempts, including four 3-pointers. Waiters tallied 15 second-quarter points and the Cavaliers added 14 points off six Rockets turnovers in the second to cut into a 49-30 deficit. But when the Rockets got running in the third – they finished with a season-high 29 fast-break points – Cleveland couldn’t keep pace.
“We have to do a better job of balancing the floor,” Deng said. “I thought on the one, two and three, we didn’t do a great job of running back to make sure they played half-court basketball.”
NOTES: The Rockets improved to 6-2 without All-Star G James Harden via back-to-back wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks this week, results that led to some erroneous analysis. With Harden in the starting lineup, the Rockets have a 12.1 net rating over 40 games; with G Jeremy Lin subbing for Harden, the Rockets’ net rating is minus-2.8 despite supposedly superior ball movement. “We’ve had that ball movement many times with James,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “There are times the ball gets sticky with everybody; that’s not exclusive to James. That’s one of our common denominators when we don’t play well.” … Cavaliers C Anderson Varejao missed his third consecutive game with a left knee contusion and hyperextension. … Cleveland coach Mike Brown tweaked his starting lineup, removing G C.J. Miles while inserting G Jarrett Jack. Miles has made 33 starts; Jack made his third start of the season. “I can make changes at any time, especially with where we’re sitting record-wise,” Brown said. “And I’ll continue to search, look and feel for what’s best for the team.”
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