Sunday, February 19, 2012
Jeremy Lin rebounds with best game yet
By Ian Begley Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- How does Jeremy Lin react to his first loss as a starter?
How about with his most complete game as a pro.
Lin had 28 points, 14 assists and five steals to help will the New York Knicks to a win over the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
He's the first player this season and just the fifth in the past 15 to go for at least 24 points, 14 assists and five steals. And just for good measure, Lin added four rebounds.
"The game that he had, that's ridiculous," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said.
Making things even more ridiculous? Lin made plays when the Knicks, who trailed by 10 late in the third quarter, needed them most. He had 14 points, six assists and three steals in the game's final 15:19.
"Seems like the harder the moment, the better he shoots the ball. He makes big plays and he's fearless," D'Antoni said.
Lin was going up against a Dallas defense that ranked fourth in efficiency entering play on Sunday. The Mavericks threw Shawn Marion at Lin for large stretches of the game. Over the past three games, Marion had held Ricky Rubio, Chris Paul and Ty Lawson in check. They also tried to trap Lin continuously on the pick-and-roll.
"It was different, I haven't seen that so definitely it caught me off guard a little bit," he said.
If Lin was caught off guard, it was tough to tell. He got into the teeth of the Dallas defense consistently, despite the Mavericks' best efforts. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Knicks went 22-for-37 and scored 44 points in the paint with Lin on the floor -- a credit to his ability to penetrate.
Jeremy Lin shook off his first loss as an NBA starter with 28 points, 14 assists, five steals and four rebounds in Sunday's victory.
"We moved the ball and we had a lot of people contribute," the second-year guard said. "Across the board, the efficiency was there from everybody."
Lin wasn't perfect on Sunday.
He finished with seven turnovers on the heels of a nine-turnover night against New Orleans. But his ability to penetrate opened up the perimeter for the Knicks, who shot 41 percent from beyond the arc. New York's hot shooting in turn allowed Lin more room to penetrate, something he wasn't able to do in the Knicks' loss to the Hornets on Friday.
D'Antoni was impressed by Lin's ability to bounce back after his first loss as an NBA starter.
"You can't teach what's inside his heart. You can't teach that, and he has it. His heart is huge," D'Antoni said.
Lin's heart was on full display late in the third quarter. With a little more than three minutes to play in the third, Lin converted layups while being fouled on back-to-back possessions. His free throw after the second layup cut Dallas' lead to eight.
Lin then brought the Knicks within three with a steal and dunk with 12 seconds remaining in the third.
Tyson Chandler called the play "huge."
And Lin was just getting warmed up.
The 23-year-old had six assists in the fourth. Four of Lin's assists were to Steve Novak, who had 14 points in the quarter. Lin also hit two 3-pointers, the biggest coming with 6:53 to go. He made the shot with Dirk Nowitzki contesting him to put the Knicks up, 90-81.
Lin, you may remember, was on the end of the Knicks' bench earlier this month. He was cut twice in the preseason and spent time in the D-League last month.
So the significance of knocking down a big shot over Nowitzki's Mavs wasn't lost on him.
"I was watching them win the championship last year," Lin said. "And that's where this team wants to go."
Can they get there? That question will have to wait for another day.
But Lin answered one lingering question on Sunday. The kid sure knows how to bounce back from a loss.