Jeremy Lin (林書豪) put together another signature performance at Madison Square Garden as the Houston Rockets defeated his former team, the Knicks, 109-96 in his first game back in New York.
Lin, who took the basketball world by storm during last season’s “Linsanity,” scored 22 points and had eight assists on Monday night as Houston handed the Knicks their first loss of the season at home.
The sellout crowd at the Garden gave Lin a loud ovation during the pre-game introductions.
“It was a lot of fun playing out there,” said Lin, who heard some boos once the game started. “I think our team took a step in the right direction. For me, it was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to play on that court again.”
James Harden scored a team-high 28 points and grabbed 10 boards for the Rockets, who snapped a seven-game road losing streak.
It was the second time this year the Rockets beat the Knicks, who were unable to keep pace on Monday. The Rockets outscored the Knicks 54-29 over the second and third quarters.
Chris Copeland notched a career-best 29 points for the Knicks, who had a 12-game unbeaten streak at home dating back to last season.
Copeland, who was starting in place of the injured Carmelo Anthony, scored all of his points in the second half.
“It’s one bright spot, but we lost and we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out exactly what we didn’t do right,” he said.
Lin is one of the few Asian-Americans in NBA history and the first player of Taiwanese descent to play in the league.
The talented point guard and Harvard University graduate parleyed his success last season with the Knicks into a generous free agent contract with Houston.
The Knicks failed to match Lin’s contract offer from the Rockets for about US$25 million over three years.
Knicks star Anthony called the offer “ridiculous.”
New York could have matched the offer for Lin, but the team had other plans. They boasted an impressive 18-5 record heading into Monday’s game, but that did not intimidate Lin, who apparently wanted to show management and Anthony that they had made a mistake by letting him go.
The Rockets headed into Madison Square Garden with a respectable record of 11-12, but they have had a trying year.
They had to deal with the death of head coach Kevin McHale’s 23-year-old daughter Sasha, and first-round pick Royce White is being treated for an anxiety disorder.
It has not been an easy year for Lin either. He excelled under former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, who used an up-tempo, point guard-based system. Under McHale, Lin’s numbers are down.
Heading into Monday’s game, Lin was averaging just 10.8 points and six assists this season.
Until Monday night, Lin’s best performance was against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday last week, when he scored 38 points and had seven assists in a losing cause.
Despite the slow start, Lin is third in Western Conference guard All-Star voting behind Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. The game is in Houston this year.