Knicks do the Linpossible in Toronto

Linsanity reaches fever pitch after Jeremy Lin takes down Raptors with last-second 3

Updated: February 15, 2012, 10:31 AM ET
By Mike Ganter | Special to ESPN.com

TORONTO -- Linsanity apparently plays as well north of the border as it does south.

But for almost four quarters it looked very much like Jeremy Lin's debut in Canada as a starting NBA point guard would become his first loss.

With the New York Knicks down by as many as 15 in the third quarter, Lin appeared close to suffering the first real blemish of his amazing run. That remained true for most of the fourth quarter as well, as the Knicks were down nine points to the Toronto Raptors with just four minutes to play.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Frank GunnWith 27 points on Tuesday, Jeremy Lin set a record for most points through the first five starts (131).

Then suddenly, New York shut down Toronto while Lin carried the Knicks on offense, capping the comeback with a 3-pointer in the game's final second that left even Raptors fans in the sold-out Air Canada Centre wildly cheering the Knicks' improbable 90-87 victory.

Before that, Lin's penchant for turning the ball over -- he set a record with 30 turnovers in his first five starts -- was threatening to tarnish his perfect record.

Lin had five turnovers through 24 minutes -- five of the 11 the Knicks had as a team in the first half that led directly to 21 Toronto points and helped the Raptors to an early double-digit lead.

But if there is one thing Lin has learned in his rise from relative unknown from Harvard to the league's most thrilling story of 2012, it is how to persevere when things aren't going his way.

"He's a tough kid," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You don't know that until you go into games with him and there's no way that anybody could see that before the last two weeks, but he's really tough."

Lin didn't just persevere in the second half -- he pretty much single-handedly turned what appeared to be a certain loss into yet another unexpected win by himself, the sixth in a row for this Knicks team that is riding the Linsanity wave for all it's worth.

Even when it appeared Lin's grip on the basketball public's heartstrings might be slipping -- a surprising pro-Knicks crowd was actually booing him in the middle frames -- Lin pulled everyone back in with a fourth quarter that defied his short time at the NBA level and even shorter time as an NBA starter.

In the final quarter alone Lin poured in 12 of his game-high 27 points, saving his very best for very last.

With his team down by three and 1:12 remaining, Lin drove the lane into the heart of the Raptors' defense and got a bucket and the foul, and he promptly drained the free throw to tie the score at 87 with 1:05 remaining.

Another solid Knicks defensive stand led to a hurried 3-point attempt by Toronto's Leandro Barbosa that missed the mark and put the Knicks back on offense.

Rookie Iman Shumpert had the first shot at hero status for New York, but his bank shot from 17 feet hit iron. Tyson Chandler pulled down the rebound and smartly got it into Lin's hands.

A quick look back at the bench by Lin brought the go-ahead from D'Antoni to go for the win on his own. Lin dribbled down the clock, backed Jose Calderon down just enough and then drained a 3-ball, leaving just 0.5 seconds and adding a new page to Lin's storybook tale.

"I'm just glad it went like this so we can calm the Linsanity down a little bit," his coach said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. And that's six consecutive wins for D'Antoni and the Knicks, five with Lin running the point.

How many more like this he has in him, not even Lin is sure, but there's no denying his confidence in his abilities grows by the night.

Asked after the game if he even hesitated taking what turned out to be the game-winning 3, Lin just shrugged and said, "No, I am not really thinking too much about that. Thankfully my coach and my teammates trust me with the ball at the end of the game. I like having it at the end of the game."