Monday, February 20, 2012

Jeremy Lin leads Knicks past defending champion Mavericks

NEW YORK – Jeremy Lin had 28 points and a career-high 14 assists, Steve Novak made four three-pointers in the fourth quarter and the New York Knicks ended the Dallas Mavericks' six-game winning streak with a 104-97 victory Sunday.

Celebrities such as Woody Allen, Kevin Costner, Eva Longoria, Mark Zuckerberg, Seth Meyers and Willie Randolph came out to see Lin but also saw J.R. Smith score 15 points in his Knicks debut after playing the last few months in China. Novak had all of his 14 points in the final period as New York (16-16) won for the eighth time in nine games.

The Knicks' homestand continues Monday night with the New Jersey Nets in after playing at home later Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

In a game of wild momentum swings, the Knicks reeled off 17 consecutive points in the first quarter, fell behind by 12 in the third, then pulled it out to beat the Mavericks for only the third time in the last 20 meetings.

Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 34 points for the Mavericks, who had been playing championship-level defense but became the latest team not to stop Lin.

The Knicks' sensational point guard has averaged 25 points and 9.2 assists in the nine-game stretch, including the last eight as a starter, and posted four double-doubles.

Lin had only one turnover in the first half but ended with seven. It was his sixth game in a row with at least six turnovers. Friday, he had nine, tied for most in the NBA this season, in the 89-85 loss to the New Orleans Hornets.

D'Antoni said Saturday he wanted Lin to keep taking risks. That paid off Sunday, when Lin got the Knicks back into a game that had seemed to be getting away from them in the third quarter, before shooters all around him got hot in the fourth.

Friday's loss ended the Knicks' seven-game winning streak, but certainly not the buzz around Lin. Saturday Night Live opened with a spoof of "Linsanity." Mega Knicks fan Spike Lee switched to wearing Lin's No. 4 Harvard jersey, and Lin's high school coach from Palo Alto (Calif.) High School also attended.

Lin actually started his NBA career with the Mavs' summer league team in 2010. But owner Mark Cuban said Lin preferred to play closer to home. The California native signed with the Warriors, who cut him in December, as did the Houston Rockets, before the Knicks picked him up off waivers.

"It wasn't luck because there were how many other teams that could have signed Jeremy, and the Knicks were the ones who went out and got him," Cuban said. "So they saw something and they were smart enough to go out and get him."

Playing for the seventh game in a row without Carmelo Anthony (strained right groin), the Knicks got a huge lift from Smith, just signed Friday. Coach Mike D'Antoni had previously said Smith wouldn't play because he hadn't practiced yet.

But when swingman Bill Walker also had to sit out with an injury, D'Antoni needed someone at that position, and Smith hit three of the Knicks' 12 three-pointers.

Novak made four three-pointers in about 4 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter, then Lin buried one to give the Knicks a 90-81 lead with 6:51 remaining. The Mavs got it back down to two on Jason Terry's three-pointer with 3:26 left, but Lin answered with a three-pointer, and the Mavs couldn't get closer then three again.

Tyson Chandler capped it off with a dunk and had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks in his first game against the team he helped win last season's championship. The Mavs made little attempt to keep him, opting instead for future salary flexibility over his defensive presence.

But there had been little slippage, as the Mavs came in holding opponents to an NBA-low 41.4% shooting from the field. They were limiting teams to 39.2% during the winning streak, but the Knicks carved them up for 54% in the first quarter as Lin ran the offense flawlessly.

Smith checked in to a loud ovation with 5:43 left in the first quarter, just before Terry's three-pointer gave the Mavs an 18-13 lead. He made a three-pointer on his first shot and drilled two more during a 17-0 run that made it 30-18 on Lin's three-pointer with 1:42 remaining in the period. Lin's floater with 1.4 seconds left made it 32-20, giving him 10 points in the period.

But Lin went to the bench to start the second quarter and the Knicks' momentum went right with him. Dallas ran off the first seven points before D'Antoni called time and put Lin back in. The Knicks shot only 32% in the quarter but held on to take a 48-45 halftime lead.

Nowitzki had 11 points, including a four-point play, during an 18-7 surge out of halftime, and the Mavs would go up by 12 when his free throws made it 70-58 with 4:17 left in the third quarter. The Knicks closed the period with a 14-5 burst behind eight points from Lin, whose steal and dunk with 12.5 seconds left narrowed it to 75-72.


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