WHAT IT MEANS: Knicksanity!
On Sunday, the Knicks had arguably their most impressive win of the season against one of the league's best defensive teams, the Mavericks, who had won six straight games.
Linsanity rubbed off on all the Knicks, even on the team's latest acquisition J.R. Smith, who finished with 15 points off the bench. Jeremy Lin (a team-high 28 points and 14 assists) in the starting five and Steve Novak (14 points) off the bench led the team to the 104-97 win, and they climbed back to .500. They have now won eight of their past nine games.
TURNING POINT: After Dallas allowed 30 points in the first quarter -- the third-highest total the Mavericks have given up all season -- they stormed back with two big periods. In the second and third, they outscored the Knicks 55-40, doing it offensively through Dirk Nowitzki (a game-high 34 points), which created spacing for other shooters (Vince Carter and Jason Terry), and defensively with dynamic traps and rotations. After all, Dallas entered the game only allowing 90.8 points per game (fifth-best) and 41.4 shooting (tops in the league).
But in the fourth, the Knicks went off offensively. As MSG color analyst Walt Frazier would say, "Steve brought that Novacaine!" Novak tied the game at 75 for the first time since the first half with a 3-pointer and went on to hit two more, including a two-pointer. He finished with 14 points in only 21 minutes off the bench.
THE GOOD: With Facebook founder and Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg sitting behind the Knicks' bench, Lin, a Crimson grad, had arguably the best first quarter with the team. He had 10 points, three assists and 0 turnovers, which had been a problem for him starting games. On Friday in a 89-85 loss to the Hornets, Lin had eight turnovers in the first half alone. On Sunday, he finished with a seven throughout the game, but he didn't pack them in bunches. Lin's floor game from the tip enabled the Knicks to score those 30 points in the first quarter, including nine off the bench (all threes) for Smith.
The Knicks' struggled offensively to start the third quarter, going down 15-5, but then Lin picked them up by slicing though the lane and getting to the basket. He scored eight points to end the period, including a final fastbreak one-hand dunk. Lin carried that penetration ability over to the fourth quarter, finding Novak three times each for a 3-pointer. Lin had two himself in the final period.
THE BAD: Backup point-guard duties. After Lin's tremendous first quarter, putting the Knicks up 32-20, Iman Shumpert struggled to maintain what Lin had started. He turned over the ball once and the Knicks missed three straight shots, which allowed the Mavericks to claw back and erase the deficit to 32-27. This has been an ongoing issue all season, and with Baron Davis' likely return this week, he should help continue that offensive consistency with the second unit.
Based on Shumpert's play (which has really stood out at shooting guard), Mike D'Antoni decided quickly to insert Lin back into the game, with 9:35 left in the second quarter. To prove Lin's worth, his first play within only 11 seconds was a drive to an assist for Amare Stoudemire (13 points and seven rebounds). But he can't be relied on all the time amid the shortened season.
WHAT'S NEXT: The team that is known for putting Lin on the map, the Nets. Back on Feb. 4, in the Knicks' 99-92 win at the Garden, Lin scored 25 points and dished out seven assists off the bench in only 35 minutes. The Nets haven't been mentioned in any other way all month. They've won just two games. New Jersey is riding some momentum from an impressive road win in Chicago Saturday night, 97-85, but the Bulls were again without All-NBA point guard Derrick Rose for the fifth straight game with a strained lower back. The Knicks, on the other hand, will likely be with their leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony (22.3 points per game), who has missed the team's last seven games with a strained right groin.
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