Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: February 16, 10:09 AM ET
Jeremy Lin puts true skills on display
By Ian Begley
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- The scoring spree ended Wednesday night, but the Linsanity continued.
Jeremy Lin scored just 10 points on only six shots but handed out a career-high 13 assists against the Sacramento Kings to spur the Knicks their season-high seventh straight win, 100-85.
For the first time in those seven games, Lin was held to fewer than 20 points.
But that was more than enough for New York (15-15), which climbed back to .500 for the first time since Jan. 14.
Afterward, Lin hinted that fans should get used to seeing a pure passer -- especially with Carmelo Anthony on his way back from a groin injury.
"It's my job to distribute and get people in rhythm," he said.
Lin spurred the Knicks early and often against Sacramento, handing out nine assists in the first half. Six of them led to dunks.
The Knicks fed off Lin's generosity, finishing with 25 assists on 39 makes. New York also had seven players in double digits, something the franchise hadn't accomplished in the past two seasons.
Mike D'Antoni credited Lin for not forcing things against Sacramento, something he had done in the second half against Minnesota on Saturday and at times against Toronto on Tuesday.
"I think that's where he'll make his most progress -- just reading the situation," the Knicks coach said.
More importantly, for the first time in his remarkable run, Lin showed the Knicks that he can thrive solely as a distributor.
Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts, the most by any player since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976. He had averaged an eye-popping 26.8 points in his previous six games. But that doesn't mean he was enamored with his sudden scoring binge.
"As a point guard, my field goal attempts have been really high. I don't think that's necessarily good," the Harvard grad said.
So on Wednesday, Lin's rationale was pass-first and pass often.
He found Landry Fields and Tyson Chandler for alley-oop dunks during a 90-second stretch in the first quarter, bringing the Garden crowd to its feet. He finished with six assists in the quarter and the Knicks had eight on their 10 makes.
"That's something we've been talking about all year -- have spacing and move the ball," Amare Stoudemire said. "Right now we're all buying into it and it's contagious."
They're buying in thanks to Lin, who has given the Knicks a steady presence at the point. The Knicks were sorely missing that presence in the first six weeks of the season.
"This changes everything up," D'Antoni said. "The only reason we won [seven] in a row [is] we kind of found a way to shore up that spot."
Lin has caught the attention of the nation over the past 12 days because of his remarkable story.
Overlooked coming out of high school and undrafted after a standout career at Harvard, Lin was cut twice in the preseason and spent time in the D-League last month. He was the last man on the Knicks' bench for most of the season until -- thanks to an impending contract deadline and poor performances from his colleagues -- Lin got a chance to play.
Over the past seven games, he has proved to be a revelation.
But on Wednesday, he proved something far more simple -- that he can thrive as a pure point guard. And that was all the Knicks needed.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.