Jeremy Lin scored 22 points in his return to New York, leading the Houston Rockets to a 109-96 victory and sending the Knicks to their first home loss this year after a 10-0 start at Madison Square Garden.
Lin emerged as a National Basketball Association phenomenon in New York last season, when he became the first Taiwanese- or Chinese-American to play in the league and helped the team to seven straight wins. Last night marked Lin’s first road game against his former club since the Knicks declined to match a three-year, $25 million contract from the Rockets.
“It was a lot of fun playing out there and I think our team took a step in the right direction,” Lin, who had eight assists and hit 9-of-15 shots, said at his postgame news conference. “For me, it was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to be out on that court again.”
The Knicks hadn’t appeared to miss their former point guard in winning 18 of their first 23 games, the franchise’s best start since 1972. Last night, however, the Knicks were hammered by Houston for the second time this season, while playing without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony as well as Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert because of injuries.
James Harden, Lin’s backcourt mate, had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets (12-12), who outscored the Knicks 54-29 over the second and third quarters.
New York trailed 60-55 midway through the third quarter when the Rockets broke the game open with a 15-0 surge, with Lin scoring on two drives and assisting on three of Houston’s other four baskets during the run.
“We didn’t play like we’ve been playing,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said at a news conference. “They somewhat had their way from the perimeter standpoint and our perimeter play was sloppy in terms of turnovers and not getting into things quickly enough from an offensive standpoint.”
Lin, a Harvard University graduate, finished with 20 or more points for the third time this season to help the Rockets to just their third win in 10 road games. Lin scored 13 points in his first meeting against the Knicks this season, a 131-103 Rockets win in Houston on Nov. 23.
Lin was cheered last night during pregame introductions at Madison Square Garden. He heard more jeers as the game went on.
“It was fine,” Lin said of the reception he received. “I had fun out there and I’m thankful to the fans. It was actually a lot better than I thought.”
The Knicks were led by 29 points from Chris Copeland, who started with Anthony out with a sprained left ankle.
New York still has the best record in the Eastern Conference at 18-6 and next hosts the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow. The Nets are second in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division with a 13-10 record.
“We need some of our guys back, but we’re going to have games like this,” said Knicks guard Raymond Felton, who had 14 points on 7-of-18 shooting. “It’s a long season. We’re still 18-6. We just can’t let it pile up. We’re coming off a loss, so we’re definitely going to be hungry.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder ran their winning streak to 11 games with a 107-93 win against the San Antonio Spurs last night, while the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Detroit Pistons 88-76 for their 10th win in a row. In yesterday's other NBA games, the Memphis Grizzlies topped the Chicago Bulls 80-71, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Sacramento Kings 101-90 and the Orlando Magic beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 102-93.
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