- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- At first, people thought he couldn't play defense. Then, they said he couldn't shoot. Next, it was that he hadn't beaten anybody.
After each breakout performance by Jeremy Lin, people found reasons to doubt what they were seeing.
That'll be much harder to do after Lin's performance Friday night.
The former Harvard star went for a career-high 38 points against the Los Angeles Lakers (there's your quality opponent). He did so by knocking down three of his five shots from outside 18 feet (there's your outside shooting). And he helped the New York Knicks limit Los Angeles to 37.5 percent shooting (there's your defense).
All in his third career start.
"You don't see many guys play like that, even in their 30th opportunity or in their whole career," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "What he's doing is amazing. He answered a lot of questions."
He also introduced himself to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who had said Thursday that he hadn't been following "Linsanity."
Lin outplayed Bryant on Friday, scoring those 38 points on 13-of-22 shooting. Bryant scored 34 but shot just 11-for-29 from the field.
Lin, though, insisted he wasn't trying to prove a point.
"I'm not really too worried about proving anything to anybody. I think as a team we're just growing and trying to build on this moment," Lin said. "I think that's what everyone's buying into right now and that's why we're becoming more dangerous."
That's a word you wouldn't have associated with the Knicks (now 12-15) through the first six weeks of the season. Before D'Antoni inserted Lin in the lineup, the Knicks had lost 11 of 13 and had one of the more dysfunctional offenses in the NBA.
Prior to Lin's breakout performance last Saturday, the Knicks ranked 24th in offensive efficiency, 26th in turnover percentage and 25th in assist percentage.
Those numbers no longer apply with Lin at the helm.
"It's a completely different team," Knicks center Tyson Chandler said. "You can't look at this team the same."
Lin got things started early Friday, scoring 18 points in the first half. But he seemed at his best in the fourth quarter.
With eight minutes to play, Lin got Jason Kapono in the air with a ball fake and hit a deep corner jumper to put the Knicks up nine. Two minutes later, he knocked down a 23-foot 2-pointer over Pau Gasol. Next possession, he drilled an open 3-pointer to put the Knicks up 84-71. The Garden crowd exploded.
"I have never seen this," said D'Antoni, whose team once again played without Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. "It's not often that a guy is going to play four games, the best you are going to see, and nobody knows who he is. That is hard to do."
Lin was cut by two teams in the preseason and played a total of 22 minutes in his first month with the Knicks. The undrafted, second-year point guard even spent a game in the D-League.
Now, he's the talk of the NBA. And his teammates say he's not going anywhere.
"He's not a fluke," Chandler said. "This is real."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
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