That was Linsane.
In their toughest matchup of the Jeremy Lin era, the Knicks pulled out a gritty 104-97 victory over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. In a back and forth game, the Knicks trailed Dallas by three going into the fourth quarter. New York finished off the third quarter on a 7-0 run and had the momentum going into the final twelve minutes of the game. In the fourth quarter, the Knicks’ outside shooting woes seemed to disappear. The 29th ranked three point shooting team in the NBA hit six shots from outside the arc to bury the Mavericks.
Once again, Lin was the star down the stretch, as he scored 16 second half points, including two clutch fourth quarter 3′s. The Knicks outscored the Mavericks 32-22 in the 4th quarter and pulled away from Dallas late in the game. In addition to their offensive explosion, the Knicks defense bore down late in the 4th. The Mavericks only scored one basket, a Shawn Marion layup, in the final 2:30 of the game. Overall, the Knicks got contributions from all 8 players that played. 6 of the 8 Knicks that played scored in double figures and the team defense was solid all game.
Having not practiced once with the team, not much was expected from new Knick addition JR Smith. The new Knick had an immediate impact, hitting 3/9 from outside the arc and scoring 15 points in 30 minutes, off the bench. Smith was able to provide the Knicks with the bench scoring threat that they sorely have lacked this season. In addition to his offensive impact, I was impressed with JR Smith’s defensive performance. He did the best job of any Knick defender guarding the finals MVP. His active hands bothered Nowitzki’s fadeaway shot and caused the Mav all-star to turn the ball over. Down the stretch, Smith was guarding Nowtizki in the final minutes and the Knicks pulled away.
The Knicks defense did an excellent job of playing team defense today. Mavericks not named Dirk Nowitzki only scored 63 points today. If you eliminate Dirk from the equation, the Mavericks only would have shot 40% from the field. Jason Terry was a total non-factor, only hitting 3/10 from beyond the arc. Dirk put the Mavs on his back, but late in the game he was neutralized by JR Smith and the Knicks’ defense. Even Steve Novak got in on the defensive action, pulling down 3 boards and getting a steal late in the game.
Speaking of Novak, he was absolutely critical to the Knicks’ victory. He was 4/5 from outside the arc in the 4th quarter and played solid defense the entire game. It will be interesting to see where Novak’s minutes go when Carmelo Anthony returns. Novak definitely has a role on this team, but with the infusion of talent at both shooting guard and forward it will be interesting to see how much Novak plays. Novak is a natural power forward, but today he did a nice job playing small forward and defending Shawn Marion. He will not play much small forward when Anthony returns, so conventional wisdom would suggest he will play more power forward when Stoudemire is on the bench.
The only negative that can be taken from this game is the continued struggles of Amar’e Stoudemire. The Knicks’ forward scored only 11 points on 4/10 shooting. His defense was atrocious and his body language showed frustration. Multiple times, Stoudemire looked angry and frustrated. His frustration boiled over in the 3rd quarter when he fouled Nowitzki on a 4 point play and then gave up a basket on the next possession. Stoudemire then angrily ran to the rim and slapped the net in frustration. It is sad to see the Knicks’ star struggle like this. His explosiveness seems to have left him and he cannot get his jump shot right. Before the tragic death of his brother, Hazell, Stoudemire looked to be getting his game back on track, but then was forced to miss a week to grieve. Stoudemire must ultimately begin to produce more if the Knicks are going to make a run. Right now he seems to be pressing, having forced up multiple air balls today, but it is not too late for Stoudemire to get his game back on track. A couple practices should help Lin and Stoudemire build chemistry on the pick and roll and that should help STAT to start producing.
Is anyone still doubting Jeremy Lin? Anyone? His only negative is his turnovers, but even today he improved in that. Yes, he had 7 turnover, but he also played 46 minutes. That is an average of one turnover every 6.57 minutes. The Knicks can live with that. Lin was absolutely outstanding in all other aspects of his game today. He proved more pundits wrong and dispelled more rumors. “He can’t shoot.” Wrong. Lin was 3/6 from downtown and 11/20 overall. “He won’t do that against an elite defense”. Wrong. Lin scored 28 points and dished a career high 14 dimes against the defending champion Mavs. “He turns the ball over too much”. Who cares that Lin had 7 turnovers in 46 minutes. Obviously, he needs to improve the turnovers, but that is not holding him back. The man is 7-1 as a starter. This guy can play and he is for real. His quickness, court vision and passing ability are elite. His shooting is much better than advertised and his pass-first style of play is ideal for this Knicks team. If there was any remaining doubt about Lin, this game should do wonders to dispel any of those notions. Jeremy Lin was absolutely amazing today and there is no reason why he cannot continue to play at this level.
Tomorrow, the Knicks will play the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden. That game will be surreal, as Lin’s first significant minutes came against New Jersey two weeks ago. The Knicks then and the Knicks now are two completely different teams.
Overall, today’s win was huge for the Knicks. They proved that they can match up with and conquer the elite teams in the league. Dallas came into this game on a 6 game winning streak and they were outplayed and defeated by the new-look Knicks. With a healthy Carmelo Anthony, the sky will be the limit for this Knick team moving forward. It should be fun to watch.