Jeremy Lin has always been a fan favorite, despite playing next to no real meaningful minutes in the NBA. As a Golden State Warrior, there was never louder cheers than when Lin entered a game. Same remained true when he became a Knick, but he was still regarded mostly as a bench warmer. All of that changed tonight when he outplayed one of the best point guards in the game in Deron Williams and helped the Knicks defeat the Nets 99-92.
The Knicks had just come off back to back games and was in the midst of playing their 3rd game in 3 nights. It showed as the Nets got out to an early 30-20 lead, getting any shot they wanted and deflating the impatient MSG crowd.
In came Lin off the bench who changed the complexion of the game by controlling the tempo and making crisp passes en route to an unexpectedly productive first half. He also helped in holding Deron Williams scoreless in the second quarter. Still, no one could have predicted what was to come, as everyone was still mostly just surprised at how effective Lin had played in the second quarter.
As the third quarter began, the usual stagnant Knicks offense continued, so in came Lin with over 8 minutes left to play which helped put players in their natural positions. That alone helped the Knicks find a better flow. However, Melo’s shot was terribly off and their options on offense were limited because Amare was out with foul trouble. The Nets decided to double and triple team Melo, leaving Lin wide open for jumpers. Lin seemed exposed as he missed 4 straight wide open shots. The Nets took advantage of the short comings and built a 7 point lead late in the 3rd, threatening to open up the game. Still, Lin managed to have a positive effect on the game by doing the little things like taking charges, playing with energy, and diving for balls like players on a desperate team should. And then suddenly, he started doing big things.
With only about 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Lin drove to the basket as the Knicks spacing gave him an opening with no help behind Williams. He converted a 3 point play as Deron fouled him. It was a huge momentum breaker for the Nets who likely didn’t even have Lin on their scouting reports. On the Knicks final possession, Lin once again drove to the basket and converted a 3 point play, nearly evening up the score at 72-70. The crowd was in an absolute frenzy as they chanted “JER-E-MY”, but the night was only going to get better.
As the fourth quarter began, Jeremy looked noticeably tired. At this point, it was obvious that he was playing purely on adrenaline as he had never come close to playing for so long in an NBA game. Despite belief that he would need a breather, he stayed in the game and continued to attack.
Realizing the defense gave him enough space to shoot, Lin let a 15 footer fly. Bang. When he wasn’t scoring, he made all the correct passes to set teammates up for good rhythm shots. When the defense gave him enough space again, Lin let another 15 footer fly. Bang again. Defensively, he frustrated and limited Deron Williams to a 7-19 shooting night. It became apparent that Lin had complete control of the game. As the jump shots began to fall, the defense tightened. He saw an opening and drove to his left for a reverse lay up. Even he could no longer keep his normally stoic face as he broke a big smile. The entire arena, including the team and even the Nets broadcasters(I witnessed this game through their broadcast as well), could not believe what they were witnessing.
“It’s the Jeremy Lin show here at MSG!”, Mike Breen would shout.
“Winning and grinning!”, beamed Walt Frazier.
“Jeremy Lin is unstoppable!”, yelled Ian Eagle.
Down the stretch of the fourth quarter when the team needed it the most, Jeremy split a double team and drove to the basket for yet another and one finish prompting him to do a fist pump and a scream of “Lets go!”. It was a fitting reaction as he wrapped up the best basketball game of his life. In total, he converted 4 baskets while being fouled, and the game was effectively over after his final drive to the basket right through Deron Williams gave the Knicks an 11 point lead. His stats for the night looked like this: 10-19 FG, 5-7 FT, 25 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 turnover, 2 steals.
On a night where Carmelo Anthony shot 3-15 for 11 points and Amare Stoudemire could only muster 25 minutes of play due to foul trouble, Jeremy Lin became the most unlikely yet the most necessary hero to win this game. It showed that until Baron Davis comes back, they have a real point guard to run the team. It also may have saved D’Antoni’s job. After coming off two very tough losses, this was an absolute must win game for the Knicks who are now 9-15, good for 1.5 spots behind the 8th seed.
A wonderful opportunity has knocked Lin’s door. It’s not every day a point guard desperate to land on an NBA team lands on an NBA team that has never needed point guard play more than these Knicks. Lin was finally given the opportunity to play and he ran away with it as hard as he could tonight.
It remains to be seen if Jeremy Lin can sustain this level of play. Teams will surely adjust accordingly now that he has had his coming out party. For at least one game though, he put MSG and Knicks fans all over the world in a state of ecstacy with his shocking play. MSG hadn’t been so loud in so long. The Knicks and its fans needed someone like Jeremy as much as Jeremy needed the Knicks.
Follow me on twitter @tupark82