To the contrary of what many twitter folk declared in the 2nd quarter, Linsanity is in fact in full effect. Lin shook off a turnover ridden first half to lead the Knicks in a gritty fourth quarter comeback. Down 9 to begin the fourth quarter, the Knicks pulled off a second straight fourth quarter miracle.
After holding Minnesota to 11 points in the final quarter Saturday, the Knicks defense held Toronto to just 12 points tonight. Iman Shumpert deserves a world of credit for the job he did in the fourth against Raptors point guard, Jose Calderon. While Jeremy Lin struggled to contain Calderon in the first three quarters, Calderon struggled to find space against Shumpert in the fourth.
Shumpert’s theft on Calderon led to a dunk to bring New York within three, with 1:28 left in the game. After another defensive stand, a Jeremy Lin and-1 tied the game, with a minute to go. Toronto responded to the Knicks’ run with an air ball and the Knicks got the ball back with 43 seconds remaining. Shumpert missed a 17-foot jumper, but, in maybe the second biggest play of the game, Chandler was able to come down with an offensive rebound and the rest was history. Lin waited out the clock, sized up Calderon and stroked the three. Game over. Knicks win.
At 14-15, the Knicks sit in 8th place, a game and half up on the idle Bucks. They’ve won six games in a row and now head back to Madison Square Garden for five straight home games. With Sacramento and New Orleans next up on the slate, the Knicks have a great chance to get back over the .500 mark. More importantly than the schedule is the way the Knicks are winning. Great teams find ways to win on the road, no matter the opponent. That is what New York is doing. Minnesota is a solid team and Toronto has played well as of late (beating Boston, losing to the Lakers by 2). The Knicks aren’t squeezing out road wins in Charlotte and New Orleans, rather, they are beating solid opponents. Led by their new point guard, this team is learning how to win close games on the road.
Three weeks ago, the Knicks would not have won these last two games. Jeremy Lin has not only improved the Knicks’ play, but their grit and confidence, as well. His ability to continue to attack and fight late in games is contagious. New York needed a pulse and he has given them one.
It was a tale of two halves tonight for Lin. His first half stat line looked good: 9 points and 6 assists, but his 6 turnovers really hurt the team. Early in the game, it looked like Lin lacked the energy and explosiveness that allowed him to dominate teams like the Lakers. In the second half, Lin flipped a switch. His energy level increased greatly and his play on the court followed suit. Lin scored 12 fourth quarter points, en route to leading the Knicks to victory. While his passing, court vision and quickness are impressive traits, Lin’s most impressive trait is his heart. No matter how poorly he seems to play or how tired he looks, Lin continues to attack and give the Knicks 110% effort late in games.
Thirty pages could be written about Lin’s performance tonight, but the Knicks do have 14 other players on their team. Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire were crucial to the New York victory tonight.
Shumpert’s ability to dominate Jose Calderon, defensively, in the 4th quarter was monumental in helping the Knicks win. When Toronto’s point guard was neutralized, their offense fell apart and reverted to iso-Barbosa. Obviously, that did not work and the Raptors scored 12 fourth quarter points.
Tyson Chandler was squeezed by the officials all night, but still was able to record 13 points and 9 boards, in just 28 minutes. Down the stretch, Chandler made two plays that were key to the Knicks winning this game. His block of DeMar DeRozan set up the Lin and-1 and his previously mentioned offensive rebound allowed Lin to hit the game winning shot.
In addition to his clutch fourth quarter play, Chandler improved on his league leading 69.4% field goal percentage by shooting 5/5 from the floor tonight.
Amar’e Stoudemire returned from mourning the death of his older brother, Hazell. Early in the game, Stoudemire looked discombobulated offensively and started the game 1/7 from the floor. He shot 7/15 for the rest of the game and finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Despite having little-to-no explosiveness tonight, Stoudemire came off the bench in the fourth quarter to score big baskets and contribute greatly to the Knicks’ comeback. Stoudemire scored three key baskets late in the game and helped the Knicks overcome the nine-point deficit they had dug themselves into.
Jared Jeffries’ contributions in this game cannot be discounted. He picked up two charges tonight that took two possessions away from Toronto, which in a close game is huge. Jeffries has been playing fantastic as of late and he did not disappoint tonight.
Overall, led by their point guard, the Knicks showed once again that they are learning how to win tough games. Miami can win tough games, Boston can win tough games, Chicago can win tough games. Obviously, with a point guard who has started 5 games in his career, the Knicks are not at the level of those other teams, but that does not mean they cannot eventually get there. This is a process and right now the Knicks are moving in the right direction.
They aren’t a finished product yet, but this team continues to get better. Whether it is beating the Lakers by 7 or the Raptors by 3, wins are wins. The Knicks haven’t compiled many wins over the past decade, but that is beginning to change. Led by Linsanity, the Knicks look to continue turning the corner as they continue to win. In the end, Jeremy Lin made the tough shots, but tonight was a great team win and that is a great sign for the Knicks.