- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Knicks won back-to-back games for the first time since early January.
But don't call it a winning streak -- it's a 'Lin-ning Streak.'
Because, as improbable as it sounds, Jeremy Lin's fingerprints were all over both victories.
That's the same Jeremy Lin who was cut by two teams in the preseason.
It's the same Jeremy Lin who played a grand total of 16 minutes in his first two weeks with the Knicks.
And it's the same Jeremy Lin who spent six days in the D-League two weeks ago.
"I definitely couldn't have imagined this," Lin said after scoring a career-high 28 points and handing out eight assists in his first NBA start, a 99-88 win over the Jazz.
The Harvard-educated Lin led the Knicks to win on a night when they were without Amare Stoudemire (death in the family) and Carmelo Anthony, who left with 6:31 to play in the first with a strained right groin.
"We've been saying that he has talent in practice, but we didn't know if it would translate in the game," said Tyson Chandler. "He's obviously showing all of us that he can."
With Lin running the show, the undermanned Knicks (10-15) never seemed overwhelmed.
They held a lead for the final 45 minutes of the game and pulled away in the fourth on the strength of several big shots from their point guard.
"Jeremy kind of settles everything and we can build on that," D'Antoni said. "He gives us a semblance of a team that can move the ball and get shots."
That's an aspect that was missing from D'Antoni's offense for most of the season. Before Lin's breakout night on Saturday, the Knicks were 24th in offensive efficiency, 24th in field goal percentage and 25th in assist percentage.
On Tuesday, those numbers seemed like misprints.
Lin continually created open shots, ran the pick and roll smoothly and helped maintain spacing on the floor.
In short, he was everything that D'Antoni had been searching for in a lead guard.
"It’s fun," the coach said. "You can actually draw a play up and (think) 'this might work.' "
It worked for the Knicks on Monday in part because of major contributions from Bill Walker (11 points, five rebounds) and the seldom-used Steve Novak (19 points, 5-for-8 from beyond the arc).
"It's really not just me," said Lin, just the second Asian-American player in league history. "I hope everyone sees that."
One negative for Lin? He had eight turnovers to go with his eight assists. But that was partially due to fatigue. After playing 36 minutes on Saturday, he was on the floor for 45 on Tuesday.
D'Antoni thought about taking him out late in the third quarter. Lin convinced him to reconsider. The coach obliged, saying later that he was going to ride Lin "like friggin' Secretariat."
D'Antoni's 'Secretariat' brought the Knicks home in the back stretch. Lin had 13 points in the fourth quarter -- many on an array of acrobatic layups. (Something he perfected playing on an 8-foot hoop with his brothers in Palo Alto, Calif.)
Lin's night hit a crescendo with just under two minutes to play. He gathered a deflection from Chandler and knocked down a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock to give the Knicks a nine-point cushion and essentially seal the game.
Lin backpedaled across half court with his tongue half out, wearing a child-like smile as the Garden crowd chanted "MVP, MVP!"
"It was just special," Lin said.
Not bad for a guy who was with the Erie Bayhawks two weeks ago.
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
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