Sans Lin, Davis finally gets first start

NEW YORK – When Baron Davis signed with the Knicks in December, he instantly was stamped as the team’s next savior. That was before Jeremy Lin, when Davis was destined for the starting job whenever he could recover from the herniated disk in his back.

Davis’ timetable, however, was very different from the one in the minds of those who hung their hopes on his return.

“I was just happy to get back on the court,” Davis said. “When I signed here, I didn’t know if I would be able to play, to be honest. The doctor and medical staff was saying it was a career-threatening injury. So I just wanted to be able to walk, let alone get on the court and work out.”

Davis started his first game for New York on Monday night, posting 13 points and 7 assists as the Knicks beat Milwaukee, 89-80, and reached .500 (25-25). He also shot 3-for-12 with 9 turnovers in a season-high 34 minutes, while Lin missed the game with a sore right knee.

“I was excited to get out there and continue to play at a high level, he said. “I think I had the best game of my career since I have been here. It was good to get those type of minutes. We played well as a team tonight. It was a gutsy win for us but we will take it.”

The offense struggled to find fluidity most of the game. The team shot 35 percent from the floor with 23 turnovers. Without Lin in the lineup, the Knicks were searching for a ball handler whenever Davis went to the bench. Interim coach Mike Woodson used Mike Bibby when Davis came out but J.R. Smith then became the primary ball handler. Toney Douglas remained glued to the bench.

Fortunately, the Bucks couldn’t find the basket, either. The explosive backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis combined to shoot 8-for-36 and Milwaukee finished shooting 36.5 percent from the field.

The Knicks had little post presence on offense outside of Carmelo Anthony, who carried the team with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

Lin is day-to-day, and although he said he felt “a lot better” than he did Saturday after the Knicks beat Detroit, he did not commit to returning for Wednesday’s game against Orlando at home.

“I’m a little banged up, a little tired, exhausted, but it was good,” Davis said. “As long as Jeremy’s out I’m going to have to fill that void, so I have to get used to these minutes. It’s just something that as we continue to play, I’ll continue to get better.”

Even before Monday’s game there were questions about whether Davis could handle heavy minutes. Davis did show signs of having tired legs late in the game.

“We’re looking to get to this right here,” Iman Shumpert said as he turned to new pictures of the NBA championship trophy above each locker. “I don’t care if he’s tired or not. He gotta win. We gotta win.”

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