Hard to believe that the Toyota Center crowd would get whipped up into a frenzy on a night where the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers are facing the Rockets. But as the Rockets were putting the finishing touches on a 106-92 win over Cleveland, the fans were open to see something that had not been done by a Rockets player in nearly 26 years.
With just under a minute remaining, the fans got what they had begun chanting for. A pass from Jeremy Lin into the low block to Dwight Howard, that Howard converted into a left-handed layup off the glass. The assist was Lin's 10th and along with 11 rebounds and 15 points, it gave Lin his first career triple-double. With James Harden's return to the lineup and Lin's return to the bench, that gave Lin the first triple-double for a Rockets player off the bench since Mar. 31, 1998, when Cedric Maxwell registered a triple-double at Indiana with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
"I never really thought about it until everybody told me it was going to happen," Lin said. "I think anytime you get on the floor you have a chance to make an impact. I was just trying to be aggressive. Once you get on the floor, once you get a chance to play it's just basketball.
"Just three games ago, I was in a pretty bad slump. Right now, just trying to stay aggressive, stay confident and make the right basketball play."
Regarding the final play that got him the final assist, he said Harden called the play. His 11 rebounds were a career high. His fellow point guard also had a spectacular night while not scoring a single point.
Pat Beverley missed each of his five shots, all of them 3-pointers, but contributed 10 rebounds, had eight assists and had a career-high five steals. He became the first NBA player with at least 10 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and zero points in a a game since steals became official in 1973-74.
"We had 18 assists between Jeremy and Patrick. They were fantastic," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale. "Jeremy had a really good game. We really needed it. He came out, brought good juice. Jeremy just had a good positive vibe going, playing hard, wasn't losing his mind is something happened. He played and had a nice vibe going."
"You have to give credit to their two guards, Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin," Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown said. "They played a heck of a game between the two of those guys, twenty-one rebounds is phenomenal. A guy like Patrick Beverley affected the game, although he did not score. Jeremy Lin's triple-double was big for those guys because you know your hands are full with Dwight (Howard) and James (Harden). For those guys to step up the way they did, you have to give them credit."
After the Rockets had built their 19-point lead only to see it completely erased early in the third quarter, McHale turned to Lin and Donatas Motiejunas to re-create what had been working in the first half and to essentially save the first unit, whose performance McHale called traumatic. Lin and Motiejunas entered the game with the score tied at 63 and helped spark a 9-0 Rockets run. Motiejunas has a modest stat line with four points and four rebounds, but he had a (plus-15) plus/minus rating in just 25:19 of playing time.
The spark from the duo was immediate. First, Lin assisted on a long 3-pointer from Harden, then after grabbing a defensive rebound, found Motiejunas for a hook shot in the lane. Then Lin grabbed another defensive rebound and finished that Rockets possession with his own running layup off of a pass from Howard. Howard finished the run with one of his four dunks in the game. Houston never led by less than six points the rest of the game.
Harden scored 28 points to lead the Rockets, hitting 10-of-17 shots. He joked after the performance that he should hurt his thumb more often if he knew it would improve his shooting. It was his seventh best shooting game of the season, and the most points he's scored since tying his season high with 38 points on Jan. 8.
Howard added 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting and also made 6-of-8 free throws. Terrence Jones had 17 points and seven rebounds.