Saturday, February 11, 2012
'I feel like I'm in a dream right now'
By Zach Harper ESPN.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- There have been a lot of gray areas in Jeremy Lin's game as the new point guard of the New York Knicks.
Is he really this good? Can we trust him to keep up his performance throughout the entire season? Where does he put the Knicks moving forward? Can they keep winning?
"They did a good job of playing me in the gray areas and making my decision not necessarily clear," Lin said after finishing with 20 points on 8-for-24 shooting, eight assists and six turnovers in New York's 100-98 win over Minnesota, its fifth in a row.
When the Knicks faced the Wolves on Saturday night, Minnesota made sure the gray areas in which Lin has been succeeding the past week were well defended. After he started the game 7-for-12 in the first half, the Wolves cut off his driving lanes, challenged his jumpers and forced him into a 1-for-12 shooting performance in the second half. But the biggest point Lin scored in the game came with four seconds left when he made his fourth free throw of the night, which put the Knicks ahead for good.
Lin's matchup with star rookie Ricky Rubio ended up being a big frustration for him most of the night.
"[Rubio] gave me a really hard time today," Lin said. "He did a really good job. Forced me into a couple of bad turnovers and bad shots. He's a really good basketball player."
Rubio's defense slowed Lin's offensive prowess in terms of scoring, but Lin still was able to help lead the Knicks to a victory through patience running the offense and on-court leadership.
Jeremy Lin had all the right moves in the first half, then ran low on fuel in the second.
"He's a point guard. He just has a great pace that's hard to teach, and it takes years to do that," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said after the game. "Those are things that unless you have and unless you coach a player, you really don't know. That's one of the reasons that it gets overlooked because you don't see the intangibles unless he plays."
The intangibles are what set Lin apart from the rest of the guards D'Antoni has trudged out there this season to run the team. There is a calmness out of Lin's attack that shows understanding of how NBA defenses work far beyond his experience.
Against the Wolves, Lin used the pick-and-roll early to get into the paint, outwait the defense and force it to make a decision. It was often the wrong decision by the Wolves, as they either would give him enough space to get off a quality shot or would move up to stop him and leave an offensive player open under the basket.
When Lin wasn't scoring on his own, he was helping his teammates get into position to score.
"This is a credit to the team," Lin said. "That's what I've been saying this whole time. This team is a team, and that's why it's so fun to play with [them].
"Because I have one good shooting game, other people don't get talked about."
With the Knicks down three and looking to get two possessions in the final 36 seconds, D'Antoni drew up a play to run Steve Novak off a Tyson Chandler screen into the corner for an open shot. According to D'Antoni after the game, Chandler assured Novak he would be open on the play and it would be up to Lin to deliver the pass. Lin found Novak in the corner to tie it up and put the pressure back on Minnesota to be the first team to defeat the Knicks since Lin took over.
This has been part of the leadership Lin has shown in his brief stint running the Knicks' point. He's putting the team in a position to win, and his teammates are stepping up on both ends of the floor to help them all emerge victorious, even when the opposing team is taking away the parts of his game that have made him successful.
And the Knicks keep on winning, despite those questioning Lin's longevity with what he's able to do.
"I feel like I'm in a dream right now," Lin said, happy to get the victory, and to have a day off to rest and reflect on this whirlwind of a week for him and his team. The Knicks next play Tuesday in Toronto.
We keep waiting for Lin's dream to end, but as of right now, there hasn't been a team capable of waking him up.
Zach Harper hosts Daily Dime Live for ESPN.com