Some moments are more symbolism than substance, enticing in their imagery, but lacking in heft. In his brief time in the National Basketball Association (NBA) spotlight, Jeremy Lin (林書豪) has skillfully fused it all, delivering meaningful plays with maximum effect.
Lin’s fourth-quarter pull-up three-pointer over Dirk Nowitzki was not the most important shot during their game on Sunday afternoon, but it made the greatest impression, and it said everything about Lin’s professional growth spurt, his instant stardom and his uncanny comfort under pressure.
In a game nationally televised in the US, against the defending NBA champions, Lin rose ever higher, leading the New York Knicks to a thrilling 104-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden.
Lin scored 28 points and set another career high in assists, with 14, as the Knicks (16-16) secured their most significant win of the season. They did it against a Mavericks defense that ranks among the NBA’s best, one that deployed every means imaginable to stop Lin, the league’s newest star.
Dallas (20-12) sent double teams and traps, attacked Lin at midcourt and in the fourth quarter shadowed him with Shawn Marion and his pterodactyl wingspan. Lin made 11 of 20 shots, shook off his seven turnovers and delivered two huge three-pointers down the stretch.
“The game that he had, that’s ridiculous,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It just seems like the harder the moment, the better he shoots the ball and makes big plays.”
The Knicks have won eight of their past nine games, all since Lin became their primary point guard, and most of them without Carmelo Anthony, who injured his groin two weeks ago.
J.R. Smith, making his Knicks debut, scored 15 points off the bench and spent critical turns guarding Nowitzki (34 points) and Jason Terry (13 points). Steve Novak scored 14 points, all in the fourth quarter, when he made all four of his three-pointers — three on assists from Lin. Tyson Chandler, who helped Dallas win the title last season, had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Then there was Lin, at the arc, measuring up Nowitzki — the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals — then drilling a shot over him for a 90-81 lead that doubled the decibel level with 6 minutes, 51 seconds to play.
“I think in the moment, I don’t really think too much about it,” Lin said with a slight grin. “But looking back, it’s like, I was watching them win the championship last year. And that’s obviously where this team wants to go.”
After the Mavericks closed the gap to 95-93, Lin hit another three, this time over Marion, with 2 minutes, 57 seconds remaining. He closed the afternoon by stealing the ball from Nowitzki and sending a deep pass to Chandler for a game-clinching breakaway dunk.
The Knicks lost a 12-point lead in the first half and erased a 12-point deficit in the second half, then held the lead for the final 8 minutes, 36 seconds.
Lin scored eight points in a 14-3 run to close the third quarter, capped by a driving dunk.
The Knicks are living Lin’s dream. And through two weeks and nine games, it seems only to get better.