Joe Johnson scored 28 points and Willie Green carried the Hawks in the fourth quarter, leading Atlanta past former coach Mike Woodson and the New York Knicks 100-90 on Friday as the seriousness of Jeremy Lin’s knee injury remained a mystery.
Woodson, who coached the Hawks from 2004-2010, returned to Philips Arena for the first time as the Knicks interim coach.
With his team not at full strength — forced to go without injured starters Amar’e Stoudemire (back) and Lin (left knee) — Woodson leaned once again on Carmelo Anthony, who led the Knicks with 36 points. Rookie Iman Shumpert also contributed 25 points, matching his career high.
While, the Knicks lost for only the second time in 10 games under Woodson, their hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference shrunk to one-and-a-half games over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Meanwhile, Woodson only deepened the mystery surrounding point guard Lin’s knee injury when he told reporters that he did not know “when” or “if” Lin would play again this season.
“I have no idea when these guys are going to return, if they’re going to return. I just don’t know,” Woodson told reporters when asked when Lin and Stoudemire would return to the court.
Woodson also said Lin, who traveled with the team to Atlanta, had undergone an MRI scan of his sore left knee, the team did not yet know the results.
“We just got to take it a day at a time, see how he is and go from there,” Woodson said. “He just tweaked it and it’s not feeling too well. When he’s ready to go, that’s going to put a big smile on my face.”
Though Woodson suggested Lin might not return during the regular season, which ends on April 26, ESPN reported that Lin told Dennis Scott of NBA TV prior to the Hawks game that the knee injury was not serious and that keeping him on the bench was more of a precautionary measure.
Scott said he was left with the impression that Lin would play if the playoffs started today.
ESPN also cited a Knicks spokesperson as saying the team hoped to have Lin back for Tuesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.
Many players have said the 66-game schedule, which was compressed after the NBA lockout delayed the start of the regular season, has given players too little time to recover and left them more vulnerable to lingering injuries.
Veteran Knicks point guard Baron Davis, who has suffered from a sore right hamstring and calf, said “there’s no time to recover … You see a lot of guys injured.”
Knicks forward Jared Jeffries, who has a sore right knee, attributed both his and Lin’s injuries to “wear and tear,” with the compressed schedule only making it worse.
“You get a small injury and it seems to keep going and keep compounding itself,” he said.