Former Harvard University point guard Jeremy Lin had 28 points and eight assists to lead the shorthanded New York Knicks to a 99-88 win against the Utah Jazz in his first National Basketball Association start.
Lin, who scored 25 points off the bench in a Feb. 4 win against the New Jersey Nets, continued his strong play last night against Utah, hitting 10 of 17 shots.
“He has an attacking mentality,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of Lin in his postgame news conference. “He can get into the paint, he moves the ball, there’s no selfishness and he’s just trying to read each play. I think he’ll get better, but he has an innate ability to be able to see guys.”
It was the second straight win for the Knicks, who were without Amar’e Stoudemire and lost Carmelo Anthony to a groin injury. Stoudemire took a leave of absence yesterday after his brother was killed in a car accident, while Anthony suffered a strained groin five minutes into last night’s game.
Before their two-game winning streak, the Knicks had lost 11 of their previous 13 games. The brief turnaround can be credited in part to Lin, who had scored 32 points in limited action during his first nine games for the Knicks this season.
“I was just trying to hit shots, play solid defense and it was a solid team effort,” Lin, 23, said in a televised interview at Madison Square Garden. “We basically played off the energy of the fans here in the arena.”
The 6-foot-3 Lin played four years at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard and was a unanimous first-team all Ivy League selection in 2010 as a senior. He joined the Knicks in December after having been released by the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.
Point Guard Help
Lin has provided a boost to a Knicks team that was in need of help at point guard as Baron Davis continues to recover from a back injury. While Lin had a game-high eight turnovers last night, his ability to run the Knicks’ offense the past two games has come as a surprise even to D’Antoni.
“When he worked out for us last year or two years ago, we noticed he has a burst of speed that can get him there,” D’Antoni said. “I didn’t know he could play defense, I didn’t think he could shoot well enough and I didn’t think he could go up and finish. I’m going, ‘He can’t finish, can’t shoot, can’t play defense. I like his speed, but I don’t know.’
‘‘Now he’s had the opportunity and he’s made the best of it, that’s for sure,” D’Antoni added.
The Knicks improved to 10-15 and next play tomorrow at the Washington Wizards. D’Antoni said Anthony, who was averaging a team-leading 23.3 points a game, is day-to-day.