Lin leads Rockets' rout in return to New York
Jeremy Lin (Reuters)
Jeremy Lin will never forget that brief, beautiful period of basketball known as Linsanity.
His first trip back to Madison Square Garden was memorable, too.
Lin had 22 points and eight assists in his return to New York, leading the Houston Rockets to a 109-96 victory on Monday that ended the Knicks' 10-game home winning streak to open the NBA season.
Lin said before the game he would always remember his breakthrough, no matter how long he plays. But he wasn't thinking about it on Monday, even as he put together a good imitation of it.
"I've moved on, they've moved on," Lin said. "We have good memories, but at the same time we're all in a different place now."
Cheered then jeered, and later floored by Tyson Chandler's flagrant foul, Lin added another masterpiece to the ones he compiled last season during the height of his memorable run. No longer the fan favourite he was when wearing the home uniform, Lin got a mixed reception when he left the game with 2:25 remaining and the Rockets leading by 16.
"It was a lot of fun playing out there and I think our team, we took a step in the right direction," Lin said. "And for me, it was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to play on that court again."
The Knicks decided not to match Houston's contract offer to Lin, and nobody could argue when Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni led the Knicks to the best record in the Eastern Conference with a team that led the NBA in fewest turnovers.
But Lin was the best point guard on the floor, just as he so often was during his dazzling run last winter, when the NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent went from undrafted benchwarmer to the biggest sports story around the world.
"He had a good game, without a doubt," Felton said. "I never talked junk about Jeremy Lin. Anything I said about Jeremy, I felt like he deserved anything. He deserved everything he got. He had a good game. Plain and simple."
Felton scored 14 points but shot 7 of 18. Kidd was 2 for 9, and both committed three turnovers.
The Rockets outscored the Knicks 54-29 over the middle two quarters, denying New York its first 11-0 start at home since the 1991-92 season.
The Knicks trailed by just five midway through the third quarter before the Rockets blew it open with a 15-0 run, with Lin either scoring or assisting on five of their six baskets.
Lin saw some fans wearing his old jersey, but said he didn't let his mind drift back to last season during the game. He doubled his scoring average in what he called an up-and-down season so far.
"I hope this is the start of a nice run for him, because he works really hard," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "He's a great kid. He deserves it."
A sellout crowd that included swimsuit model Kate Upton - who was on one fewer Sports Illustrated covers than Lin last February - gave the Harvard graduate a loud ovation during the introduction of starting lineups. The cheers quickly turned to jeers once the game started, particularly when he made a basket. There were boos when Chandler knocked him to the ground with a shot to the head that resulted in a flagrant foul.
"He hit me hard, but I still kept coming though," Lin said.
Chandler felt it was a clean, hard foul that didn't warrant a flagrant. He and Lin hugged after the game.
"He had a good game," Chandler said. "He had a good game the other night. He's a good player. He's going to have some nights, but I thought we could have took away a lot of his easy baskets, him and James Harden."