Knicks fall to Hornets; Lin scores 26

Jeremy Lin and Amar'e Stoudemire look on late

Jeremy Lin and Amar'e Stoudemire look on late in the game against the New Orleans Hornets. (Feb. 17, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Well, you can't Lin 'em all.

The Knicks suffered their first loss of the Jeremy Lin era, falling to the New Orleans Hornets, 89-85, at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

Lin had 26 points and five assists, but his nine turnovers were two short of the franchise record held by Amar'e Stoudemire and Micheal Ray Richardson. The Knicks (15-16) had won seven straight since Lin joined the rotation to become an out-of-nowhere sensation.

"Whoever wants to credit me for this last seven games, then I definitely deserve this one on my shoulders," Lin said. "That's fine with me."

Said coach Mike D'Antoni: "I don't think he expected to go without a defeat this year. I think he's fine."

The Knicks, who never led, trailed by as many as 14 in the first half and by 12 in the fourth quarter. They closed to within three in the fourth with Lin on the bench and rookie Iman Shumpert running the point.

Lin re-entered with 5:29 left, and Jared Jeffries' free throw brought the Knicks within 73-71. They again moved within two at 82-80 with 1:06 left but got no closer as the Hornets (7-23) won their third in a row.

Lin, who earlier in the day said the "Lin-sanity" surrounding him was "a little mentally and emotionally taxing," was asked if losing one game might have been a good thing. "I don't think this is good because I hate losing," he said. "But I know what you're saying in terms of everything dying down a little bit. From that end, it may help me, may help the team a little bit in terms of having everything off the court cool down a little bit."

That's probably not going to happen. The Knicks face the defending NBA champion Mavericks on national TV on Sunday; that's the start of a four-games-in-five days stretch that ends Thursday against LeBron James and the Heat in Miami.

Then Lin will be the focus of the early part of All-Star Weekend. The NBA moved heaven and earth to get him into the Rising Stars rookie/sophomore game Feb. 24, adding him at the last minute. The next night, he'll pass the ball to Shumpert in the Slam Dunk contest.

Lin, the undrafted free agent out of Harvard, had averaged 24.4 points and 9.1 assists during the winning streak and 24.3 points and 9.5 assists in his previous six starts. But turnovers had been a problem; he averaged 5.3 in the previous seven games and had eight in the first half Friday. He had six turnovers before he picked up his second assist.

"It was just lackluster effort on my part coming out," said Lin, who had 16 points, one assist and one turnover in 17:29 after halftime. "Careless with the ball. Nine turnovers is obviously never going to get it done from your primary ballhandler. It's on me in terms of taking care of the ball and also the game in general."

In eight games in the rotation, Lin is averaging 24.6 points, 8.6 assists and 5.8 turnovers.

Stoudemire had 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who shot 4-for-24 from three-point range. Tyson Chandler (10 points, 11 rebounds) was the only other Knick in double figures. Former Knick Trevor Ariza led New Orleans with 25 points.

After the Knicks demolished Sacramento Wednesday night, the last thing fans expected to see was Lin playing poorly and the Knicks trailing by 14 after one quarter. But that's what happened. The score was 27-13 and the Knicks heard boos as they came off the floor. Lin had two points and five turnovers.

He had eight points, three assists and three turnovers in the second quarter as the Knicks went into halftime trailing 43-39.

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