Saturday, April 27, 2013

Russell Westbrook injury is an opportunity for Jeremy Lin

This is an excellent breakdown of Jeremy Lin's game based on this season.

Russell Westbrook, one of the most dynamic, athletic guards in the NBA, tore his right knee lateral meniscus in Game 2 of the Rockets-Thunder first-round play-off series. Ironically, that's the same injury, though in the left knee, that ended Jeremy Lin's season last year.

In Game 2, Lin suffered a chest contusion and spasms that kept him out of the 2nd half of the game. He should be fine for Game 3.

Westbrook's injury greatly diminishes the Thunder as a contender. They rely heavily on both Westbrook and Durant as creative scorers and playmakers. Outside of their two stars, the Thunder roster is made up of role players. Remove one of the stars and the system becomes ordinary. They become one-dimensional. The Thunder back-up PGs, Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher, are a big drop-off from Westbrook. Too bad for them that they traded Harden.

The Rockets have a good shot to win the series now. Their biggest match-up advantage is at PG with Lin against the Thunder back-up PGs. Reputations are made and ruined in the play-offs and Lin has started his play-off career poorly. With Westbrook out, Lin is set up to excel and start building up his post-season reputation.

Post-game update: Lin only played 18 minutes. He's still hurt and didn't play well. Durant took a retaliatory shot on Lin for the Westbrook injury. It didn't look like much, but jerked Lin's arm, which pulled on his chest contusion. Ouch. The Thunder, after a hot start that peaked with a 26-point 2nd quarter lead, looked as one-dimensional as expected in Game 3. The Thunder were lucky to pull out the win. If any team can come back from a 0-3 series deficit, it's the high-octane Rockets offense against these crippled Thunder. If Lin can recover for Game 4 and take advantage of the PG mismatch, the Rockets should win.

If the Rockets season ends against the Thunder, Lin essentially will be at the same place in his career he would have reached had he played through his injury and suited up hurt against the Heat last season: roughly a season's worth of experience as a starting point guard and getting wet in the post-season.

Eric

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