Jeremy Lin received a loud ovation from the Garden fans and a hard shot to the head from Tyson Chandler on a drive to the basket. But it was the Knicks who suffered a beating Monday night.
The Knicks may be better without Lin, but their two worst games this season -- and one-third of their losses -- have come against him. All he does against his former team is Lin.
In his Garden return, Lin had 22 points and eight assists to help the Rockets hand the Knicks their first home loss, 109-96. The Knicks, who played their second straight game without Carmelo Anthony because of a sprained left ankle, dropped to 10-1 at MSG and 18-6 overall.
"It's disappointing," Chandler said. "It is one game, but I'm not going to say that I'm OK with any loss, especially a loss like this. You want to come out and compete, especially when you've got guys down."
The Knicks hope to have Anthony back for Wednesday night's game against the Nets. Anthony, who also has a sore knee, has been receiving treatment and will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
Even without Anthony, the Knicks thought they had enough to beat the Rockets. Leading up to the game, the Knicks said their main focus wasn't stopping Lin but avenging a 28-point loss to the Rockets last month in Houston. Monday night, however, the Knicks were down 27 in the third quarter.
"We played awful," Mike Woodson said.
This was Lin's first game at the Garden after the Knicks decided not to match Houston's three-year, $25.1-million offer. There were some boos, but they were drowned out by loud cheers. Some fans stood as they cheered, showing Lin appreciation for his brief yet memorable time as a Knick.
It has been difficult for Lin to reprise Linsanity, but he had a few forays into the lane that were reminiscent of last season. He shot 9-for-15 from the field in his second-highest scoring output of the season.
"It was a lot of fun playing out there," Lin said. "For me, it was great to be back and a lot of fun to be on that court again."
Lin and the Rockets (12-12) faced little resistance. They shot 51.3 percent from the field and got wherever they wanted on the court, especially Lin and James Harden, who had 28 points and 10 rebounds.
"I thought they somewhat had their way from a perimeter standpoint and our perimeter play was sloppy tonight," Woodson said.
Lin drove past and around his replacement, Raymond Felton. Eight of Lin's field goals were layups or floaters.
"He had a good game, without a doubt," Felton said. "I never talk junk about Jeremy. Everything I say about Jeremy, I feel like he deserves everything. He deserves everything he got. He had a good game, plain and simple."
The only resistance Lin faced was a hard foul from Chandler that was considered a flagrant, although the center vehemently disagreed.
"It was a hard foul, a foul that prevented him from making a layup," Chandler said. "But he walked to the free-throw line. It wasn't that hard of a foul."
Chris Copeland started in place of Anthony and scored a career-high 29 points, all in just under 22 minutes in the second half. J.R. Smith had 17 points. Felton and Pablo Prigioni each added 14 points, and Chandler grabbed 18 rebounds.
"We got a little flat at times," Felton said. "Some guys looked a little fatigued. I got tired once or twice there. It happens. It's a long season."