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Sunday, February 12, 2012
Rubio contains Lin in pick-and-roll offense

By Ryan Feldman, ESPN Stats & Information

Jeremy Lin
Lin
Jeremy Lin had been one of the best pick-and-roll ball-handlers in the NBA. But against Ricky Rubio, he was one of the worst.

In the Knicks' 100-98 win over the Timberwolves on Saturday, Lin shot just 3-of-14 and scored eight points when defended by Rubio. In the second half, Lin was 0-for-7 and scored just one point against Rubio.

Against all other defenders, Lin shot 5-of-10 and scored 12 of his 20 points.

Unfortunately for Rubio and the Timberwolves, that one point was the game-winning free throw for Lin in the final seconds. It came after Lin couldn't get through Tyson Chandler's screen, and Lin turned the corner and got fouled by Luke Ridnour driving to the basket.

But that final play wasn't reminiscent of the defensive effort Rubio displayed against Lin all night long.

Among players with a minimum of 50 plays, Lin came into the game ranked third in the NBA in points per play on pick-and-roll ball-handler situations and first on pick-and-roll single-defender situations (plays without hedges). Lin was shooting 61 percent on pick-and-roll plays, which ranked first in the NBA.

Rubio came into the game as one of the poorer pick-and-roll defenders in the NBA. He was ranked among the bottom 20 percent of the NBA in points per play on pick-and-roll ball-handler situations and pick-and-roll single-defender situations, among players with a minimum of 50 plays.

But this game was different. The defensive end of the court is where Rubio made his mark against the Knicks.

Despite Rubio's struggles defending the pick-and-roll this season, the Timberwolves didn't hedge a single time on the 14 pick-and-roll plays in which Rubio defended Lin.

With Rubio serving as Lin's primary defender, the Knicks point guard had his worst shooting performance as a Knick (8-of-24) and turned the ball over six times.

Rubio defended Lin on 14 of his 16 pick-and-roll plays. On those 14 pick-and-roll plays, Lin scored five points (2-of-8 shooting) and had four turnovers. That equates to 0.36 points per play -- among players with a minimum of 50 plays, that would rank worst in the NBA if it were Lin's season average.

Lin's numbers on pick-and-roll plays against Rubio don't even compare to his 1.07 points per play and 61.8 percent shooting in his previous four games.

Rubio has been known as one of the best passing point guards in the NBA. His offensive game is what has gotten him so much notoriety. But against Lin, one of the most efficient pick-and-roll players in the league, Rubio took on the challenge and proved his worth on the defensive end.