Sunday, March 4, 2012
Lin gets star treatment at Garden
By Jack McCluskey
Jeremy Lin drew plenty of boos and cheers in his first game in Boston as a Knicks starter.
BOSTON -- The TD Garden crowd gave Jeremy Lin the visiting star treatment on Sunday.
The visiting star treatment, if you’re wondering, sounds a little something like this: Boooooo! , Yeeeeaaaah!
The former Harvard star received a mix of boos and cheers when he was introduced in the starting lineup for the New York Knicks. Whenever he touched the ball in the opening minutes, a chorus of catcalls cascaded from the stands.
Yet when the man who inspired a thousand puns made a couple of nice plays late in regulation to help the Knicks erase a Celtics lead (New York eventually would lose 115-111 in overtime), the crowd applauded as if he was one of its own.
“I mean, [it’s] definitely kind of my second home,” Lin said, when asked what it was like to play in Boston again. “Just spending so much time out here. [I’m] thankful to all the fans who came out. Definitely heard them, definitely felt their energy, so very thankful for that.”
Lin picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, sending him to the bench after just three minutes. He sat there for the rest of the quarter, in his orange warm-up shirt with a towel wrapped around his shoulders and another spread across his lap.
Not exactly what the many fans in attendance in blue-and-orange, No. 17 Knicks jerseys had hoped to see.
The second quarter was better in that regard. Lin drove right on Avery Bradley, lowering his shoulder then stopping on a dime and throwing in a short jumper off glass for his first points of the afternoon.
Jeremy Lin ran into some problems trying to contend with Rajon Rondo.
The crowd cheered.
Later, Lin scooped up a defensive rebound and pushed the ball upcourt. Keeping his eyes up, Lin spotted Iman Shumpert running ahead of the defense and unleashed a pinpoint alley-oop pass that Shumpert slammed home with authority.
That brought more cheers.
The loudest outburst, however, came late. With the C’s leading 96-90, Lin had the ball tipped away from him at the free throw line, then outscrambled Paul Pierce to corral the bouncing ball. Turning to the basket, Lin saw a lane and took it, throwing in a running lefty layup to cut the deficit to four.
There was 2:34 remaining. Time for more Linsanity -- by which, of course, we mean almost-out-of-control action. Because that seems to be what Lin does best.
The Knicks point guard drove left and, after his lane was shut off, left his feet with nowhere to go with the ball. He threw a wild pass out to Shumpert and fell to the floor. As Shumpert dribbled into the lane, Lin picked himself up and floated out to the corner.
Shumpert saw him wide open and kicked the ball out. Lin caught it, collected himself and drained the shot to cut the deficit to one.
There was 2:07 remaining. The Celtics called time out, momentum having shifted entirely to Lin & Co.
And while it was Carmelo Anthony who made the baskets that actually put the Knicks ahead and forced Pierce to hit a 3 with 4.9 seconds left to send the game to overtime, none of it would have been possible without Lin’s personal 5-point run.
His numbers for the fourth quarter: 6 points on 2-for-2 shooting, including 1-for-1 from 3 and 1-for-2 from the free throw line, 1 assist.
His numbers overall: 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting, including 1-for-2 on 3s and 1-for-2 from the line, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 fouls, 1 steal and 6 turnovers.
“They did a good job on controlling the paint, for sure,” Lin said. “They had me take a lot of tough shots. I didn’t really get much easy stuff today. But still in my opinion I should have finished a lot of those shots.
“Hopefully next time we play them I’ll be able to hit the same shots.”
When the final buzzer sounded, the Harvard product had been schooled by his counterpart on the home team. Rajon Rondo had 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists, his fourth triple-double of the season and the 17th of his career.
“He’s definitely one of the best in the league,” Lin said of Rondo. “You saw his statline tonight, not many guards -- maybe no guards -- can put up something like that.”
After a few minutes of answering questions, the backpack-toting Lin was ushered away from the media mob and allowed to say a quick hello to a few old friends who had come to see him.
It seemed a welcome respite after a long, hard afternoon.
But before he was whisked out of the press pack, he got one more instance of visiting star treatment.
Jeremy, a reporter asked, did your performance suffer because you were trying too hard to play well here?
“I don’t think I tried too hard,” Lin said, showing an even keel even after a tough day. “I think I tried just as hard as I should have.
“The shots just didn’t fall.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.