By Joseph Goodman, The Miami Herald –
HOUSTON — This one will be remembered for one thing and one thing only: Jeremy Lin’s airball.
People will eventually forget that LeBron James tied a franchise record with 32 points in the second half. Memories will fade of James’ shooting clinic from three-point range and former Gators’ standout Chandler Parsons’ career-high 25 points for the Rockets.
But no one will forget Lin’s miss. It is a shot that will live in infamy regardless of any path, good or ill, that Lin’s career follows.
With less than 10 seconds remaining and the Rockets down by one point, Lin was wide open on the wing and poised to make up for so many bad memories of the Heat from his only season with the Knicks. Then Lin made some more bad memories.
His three-point attempt to take the lead missed everything. It was anti-clutch. He missed the rim by nearly two feet. It was Lin-gaggery and led to a 113-110 victory for the Heat in the Rockets’ biggest game since trading for James Harden.
“It didn’t come off right,” Lin said. “It didn’t feel good. Obviously, it’s my responsibility to hit that shot. It was a good shot for me, a quality shot, but it didn’t go in for me today, unfortunately, in a crucial play of the game.”
After the miss, gasps and moans and obscenities filled Toyota Center. The Heat’s reserves had to cover their open mouths to avoid being photographed during the embarrassing moment. As if he was still in shock, Dwyane Wade missed a pair of free throws on the other end moments later.
“That’s a game that went a lot of different ways,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They played a heck of a second half, but we were a little mentally tougher this time around.”
Lin compounded his unholy miss by committing a foul after Wade’s second errant free-throw attempt. The foul put Chris Bosh at the line and he made both free throws to give the Heat a three-point lead. After two timeouts, Harden missed his three-point attempt at the buzzer with James providing intense defensive pressure.
“I was looking at coach and coach was looking at me coming out of the timeout and we basically were like, ‘OK, it’s time for me to take him,’ and I’m glad I was able to get a good contest,” James said.
James led the Heat (6-2) with 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and six assists. His 32 points in the second half tied Wade’s franchise record. James has had seven double-doubles in the Heat’s first eight games.
James was 5 of 8 from three-point range and no shot from outside was bigger than his fade-away three-pointer with 1:49 to play. The unimaginably difficult shot he made look easy cut the Rockets lead to 107-106.
Bosh finished with 24 points on 14 shots. He had 10 field goals and was 4 of 4 from the free-throw line. He also had 10 rebounds. Udonis Haslem had 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Parsons, the Rockets’ 6-10 small forward and former Southeastern Conference Player of the Year for the Gators, finished with 25 points. He was 8 of 17 from field and 5 of 10 from three-point range. Houston (3-4) was 12 of 34 from three-point range overall.
Harden had a chance to put the Rockets ahead by three points but his driving layup was defended well by Bosh with less than a minute to play. The Heat countered immediately and the ball found James’ hands with 20 seconds on the clock.
James crossed up Lin on the wing and then powered his way to the basket through Patrick Patterson. The driving layup gave the Heat 111-110 lead.
Miami trailed by six points with 4:13 left when Patterson slammed his way to the rim. The Heat built a 17-point lead to begin the game but had to play catch up in the final minutes. For 35 minutes between the first and last five minutes of the game, the Heat’s defense took a catnap and let the Rockets’ youngsters back into the game.
Bosh roused his teammates from their sleep with four consecutive points, cutting Houston’s lead to 103-100. From there, the three-pointers began raining down like so many screams inside Toyota Center.
Ray Allen started it off with a three-pointer from the corner. The shot sliced the Rockets’ lead to 104-103, but Marcus Morris answered it with a three of his own. James then nailed his fadeaway but Parsons countered with his fifth and final three-pointer. The shot gave the Rockets a four-point lead with 1:29 left.
Everything was swishing the nets until, of course, Lin’s airball.
Lin struggled famously last season in his only matchup against the Heat. He was 1 of 11 from the field with eight turnovers.
On Monday, he was much better yet faded from the spotlight in the end. He finished with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting with six assists and two turnovers.
The Heat’s defense has allowed at least 100 points in seven of its first eight games.
Monday marked the 149th consecutive game James has scored in double figures for the Heat. Wade held the previous record of 148.