Before Jeremy Lin (林書豪) could script his own encore, before he could throw a single pass or wiggle into the lane, the Knicks’ overactive marketing arm had already recast the day in his image. His face beamed from the team’s home page and in a promotional e-mail sent to fans, with a single-word pitch: “Linsanity.”
Even the Knicks underestimated just how “Linsane” the night would become.
Lin, whose parents emigrated to the US from Taiwan in the 1970s, made the first start of his surprising NBA career on Monday just as the Knicks lost Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, turning the roster upside down, and setting the scene for another strange and wondrous evening at Madison Square Garden.
Lin was thrilling, occasionally erratic and ultimately exhausted, but he again electrified the crowd and propelled the Knicks to a stunning 99-88 victory over the Utah Jazz. His night ended with career highs in points (28) and assists (8), and booming chants of “MVP.”
“God works in mysterious and miraculous ways,” Lin said after the game, a smile never leaving his face.
As unlikely as Lin’s breakout performance was on Saturday — when he came off the bench for 25 points and 7 assists — this was doubly so. The Knicks (10-15) began the night without Stoudemire, who left to be with his family after the death of his older brother. They lost Anthony to a groin injury in the first quarter. Tyson Chandler spent most of the night on the bench in foul trouble.
Anthony was being re-evaluated yesterday, but it seems likely that he and Stoudemire will both miss the Knicks’ next game in Washington tonight.
There was little left of the Knicks’ starry lineup, yet the arena was filled with joyful pandemonium, all inspired by Lin, the undrafted point guard from Harvard and the city’s new sports hero.
With Lin running the point, the ball moved and the offense hummed, transforming the Knicks’ shoddy bench into a productive unit. The Knicks’ leaders, after Lin, were the seldom-used Steve Novak with 19 points, the much-maligned Jared Jeffries with 13 points and 8 rebounds, and Bill Walker with 11 points. Chandler, the last Knicks star standing, had 10 points and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes.
“What Jeremy is doing is incredible, because he’s moving -everybody to their natural positions. Nobody’s having to do anything that they’re not accustomed to doing,” Chandler said.
The only blemish was in the turnover column, where Lin had eight, all in the second half — forgivable under the circumstances because he played all but 3 minutes, 8 seconds of the game.
“I’m riding him like freaking secretariat,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said, laughing. “I was going to take him out, and he looked at me and said: ‘I don’t want to come out.’”
That moment came with about 15 minutes left. Lin said he knew he could push through and he thanked D’Antoni for the show of faith.
“He left me in, through all the mistakes, and I think that’s huge, when you’re a player and you have eight turnovers in a game, and he lets you play through it. That’s unbelievable,” Lin said.
The only players to get a louder ovation than Lin were the six members of Super Bowl champions the Giants who were introduced during a second-quarter timeout.
It was the Knicks’ second straight victory orchestrated by Lin, after Saturday’s win against the Nets, and their first against a winning team since Jan. 11. Utah, who got 22 points from Al Jefferson, fell to 13-10.