First of all, my apologies for not getting this up sooner. I was having some posting/editing issues last night and decided to leave this until the morning. The good news, at least for our present purposes, is that I'm not even close to over that game. We've seen explosive performances from role players before-- somebody mentioned Nate Robinson's outburst New Year's Day outburst against the Hawks-- but, as far as I can recall, nothing quite like this.
Take the jump!
Let me make this clear if you didn't watch the game: Jeremy Lin dominated Deron Williams. Lin played 34 minutes-- the most of any guard-- off the bench and burned Williams more times than I can count. The Knicks set one pick after another for Lin and the kid kept finding new ways to employ them. He'd accelerate over the pick one time, then head-fake his defender and drive away from the pick the next time. Often, he'd drift toward the corner or loop around and under the basket, maintaining his dribble until he could thread an entry pass into Tyson Chandler or Amar'e Stoudemire. Now, we'd seen flashes of those pick-and-roll instincts in garbage times prior. What we hadn't seen was Lin finishing plays, and THAT is what drove the Garden crowd to chant the kid's name, had the typically staid Mike Breen squealing his praises, and made last night feel like a Disney movie, just like StarksMiddleFinger said in the thread.
Lin, weary and gasping for air, just kept finishing plays. He dropped bounce passes into big men at the basket, tantalized soaring defenders with lobs that only Chandler could reach, and converted hanging, twisting shots at the rim, often with contact. And when Lin found that he couldn't sink an outside shot, he put the ball on the floor and got closer, rimming in a few tough pull-ups from the baseline and free throw line area.
And Lin finished Deron's plays for him, too! Williams had been sharp in the early going, ditching Iman Shumpert over screens to find open looks and start the ball kicking, but Lin came in and more or less shut him down. He shuffled those feet like a champ, never allowing himself to get stirred by Wililams's jabbing and juking, and played perfect containing defense through screens to keep himself between Williams and the rim. After a poised, productive first quarter, Williams saw predominantly tough looks under pressure the rest of the way and looked genuinely flustered at times.
It was as moving and engrossing an individual game as we've seen in a while-- 25 points on 19 shots, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals, and just one turnover from a guy who'd bounced around the league, waited patiently on the Knicks bench, and struggled in the prior minutes he'd received. Lin was shaky to start, but once he got comfortable, he took last night's game over at both ends of the floor.
And what's crazy is that the Knicks really needed it! In their third game in third nights, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire could not be relied upon to lead the team. Melo looked worn out and sore, launching jumpers with the same overwrought form we'd seen when his wrist and ankle injuries were at their worst. Amar'e shot the ball with reasonable efficiency, but was flummoxed by Kris Humphries and just couldn't stick around because of constant foul trouble. The Nets shot their way to an early double-digit lead, and New York had to scramble to muster a response. The Knicks were left with two things going for them: a sparkling two-man game between Lin and Chandler, and ever-tightening defense that trapped Net ballhandlers and did a much better job at forcing turnovers and closing out shooters after the Nets recorded zero turnovers and drained five threes in the first quarter.
And let us not forget Jared Jeffries, who had a terrific game off the bench and influenced the outcome almost as much as Lin did. For one, Jared benefited from Lin's creativity just like Chandler did, getting open off picks and finishing plays inside, including some pretty fancy ones. Most of all, though, Jeffries played the role of shadow on defense, lurking in the wake of guards to help trap ball handlers or slide over and contest shots or draw charges when they gained entry (I think he drew three or four offensive fouls, which is awesome).
And that did it. Against a short-handed but fairly tough Nets team, the Knick principals were out of steam (well, not Tyson Chandler. You are a monster, Tyson.), and Jeremy Lin reported for duty, recruited Chandler and Jeffries as his sidekicks, and won himself a basketball game. We really, really needed that. Other notes:
- Landry Fields made some nice plays-- a lob to Chandler, a nice finish off a curl, and a baseline jumper-- but faded a bit in reduced minutes the rest of the way. He, Iman Shumpert, and Toney Douglas sort of rotated as Lin's off-guard throughout the night.
- And, though he didn't play especially well (there was one nice and-one), that's about what we're looking for from Douglas, I think. He played 13 minutes and spent very little time handling the ball. I think that's the right role for him, and I think he'll feel more comfortable there and, with luck, start sinking some jumpers.
- While Melo didn't play well, I was delighted to see him manage his own shooting impulses and, save for a few moments of stickiness, keep the ball moving. His shooting form has degraded in each of the last three games-- presumably because of soreness and exhaustion, because he'd looked back to normal before that-- and so, thankfully, have his attempts. 26 on Thursday, 17 Friday, and 15 last night.
- Avery Johnson drinks from his water bottle like a baby would from its baby bottle-- desperately and noisily, too, I'd bet. I was kind of hoping to see him use two hands.
- Renaldo Balkman played first half minutes again! He had a really cool rebound.
- One Chandler play I'd like to highlight: A bad tipped pass caromed away from him, but he didn't give up on the play. He dove onto the ball with full force, passed it back out from a seated position, then got up and finished the play with a tomahawk dunk. That's Chandler after playing 73 minutes combined over the previous two nights. The man, like I said, is a goddamn monster.
- Those of you who watch Knicks games on MSG probably know this phenomenon: The network has a relatively limited number of sponsors, so each year, you get very familiar with a set of commercials that appear as many as a dozen times each night. After a month or two watching the Knicks, you get to know pretty much every word, noise, gesture, and musical note in each of the commercials. Often, like with that KFC "wingman" commercial (target demographic much, KFC?), it's a bit torturous. In rare occasions, though, I find myself looking forward to a particular part of one of those oft-repeated commercials. Two come to mind this season: 1. In that Visa commercial where the guy wins the Super Bowl tickets, I love the little Elmo laugh sound effect that plays when his "Meemaw" is throwing the confetti. I get excited for it every time. 2. In that FreeCreditScore.com commercial with the band, I really like the band's synchronized slide moves and the lead singer's little spin move with his guitar. I do not know why I cherish these moments, but I do. When you see the same thing fifty times a week (that's probably not an exaggeration), it's good to find ways to enjoy the interaction. It's adaptive.
- (Incidentally, there was a credit card commercial-- I think it was for American Express-- in 1997 that was about a lady breaking her sunglasses then inventing flexible sunglasses and featured Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now". Eight year-old me LOVED that commercial. That's my first experience with this phenomenon.)
- Speaking of commercials, when MSG's "KFC Bucket Chart" demonstrated Tyson Chandler's affinity for shots at the rim, Clyde exclaimed "He likes that Kentucky Fried Chicken, doesn't he? Likes the bucket! Feasting on the bucket!".
- Great exchange when Lin hit a jumper:
Breen: "He's got 17!"
Clyde: "That's his number!"
- Fun moment (and a weird reprise of something that happened with Steve Novak in garbage time the other night): Kris Humphries fell to his knees chasing a rebound. Carmelo Anthony grabbed said rebound and attempted a putback while straddling and essentially being football-tackled by Humphries.
- Great move shaving your head, Johan Petro. Seriously, you look a lot better. I'm really proud of you for taking that step.
- In garbage time the other night, a few of us saw the guys on the Knick bench do an exaggerated bowing celebration when Lin scored and we were like "yo, that's kind of racist". But toward the end of the game last night, Melo and Lin faced each other and did that celebration in unison. He's cool with it, guys, so it's totally okay!
- The group hug/noogie that Lin got as time expired got me genuinely choked up. A couple years ago, I saw Lin battle John Wall in a packed house in Vegas, and folks were openly weeping when he played well. I kinda laughed at the time (though it's awesome to see people that worked up-- in a good way-- about basketball), yet there I was, a year and a half later, stifling joyful tears after a Jeremy Lin game.
- Finally, the Garden PA system played Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" after the final buzzer, which I suppose is cool if you're into that kind of thing. I just hope...you know...that he doesn't kill himself and stuff.
And that's all I've got for now. If you missed the game, I'll post some of the videos later today, but you really ought to find a full-length replay and enjoy all of the majesty. I've got it recorded if you want to come over.
Other than that, I might post a little bit later on, but it'll be quiet today. Everybody have a wonderful, gluttonous Super Bowl Sunday. I love you all very much and was thrilled to share last night with y'all. <3.