MINNEAPOLIS -- Jeremy Lin wasn't nearly as spectacular or effective as he has been during his improbable run of captivating basketball. But his run of helping the Knicks win continued.
They trailed for most of the night and fell behind by as many as 11. But the Knicks hung in the game and stunned the Timberwolves, pulling out a 100-98 win in the final seconds Saturday night at Target Center. It was the fifth straight victory for the Knicks (13-15).
Lin had 15 points in the first half but showed the effects of playing heavy minutes on back-to-back nights and a whirlwind eight days for him. He shot 8-for-24, 1-for-12 in the second half. But Lin was a part of two of the game's biggest plays. He fed Steve Novak for a tying three-pointer with 36.2 seconds left and hit what proved to be the winning free throw with 4.9 seconds left.
"This is one those games that can change your season around and propel you in the right direction," Tyson Chandler said.
"They willed that win," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There was a lot of heart in it and that's what it takes a lot of times."
Lin finished with 20 points, eight assists, six rebounds and six turnovers. That gives him at least 20 points and seven assists in all five games during this winning streak. He is averaging 26.8 points and 8.0 assists in that span.
But after scoring a career-high 38 points in Friday night's win over the Lakers, Lin looked exhausted and had to gut it out at the end.
"The guy's played six games this year," D'Antoni joked. " . . . I might not listen to him anymore. He said, 'I'm good. Don't take me out. I'm good. I'm good.' I might not listen to him.
"But he was terrific. Just his leadership, and I know he got a little tired and couldn't finish the way he normally would. But his leadership on the floor is invaluable. Sometimes that's why we have to ride him."
"As a team, he lifts us up," Jared Jeffries said. "It's weird to have a guy come in and be your team leader who's bounced around. He inspires all of us to play harder because this kid gives his all on a daily basis.''
Lin needed more help than some other nights in this impressive stretch, and he got it. Iman Shumpert scored 20 points, Landry Fields 19 points and Novak 15, including two humongous three-pointers in the last 3:03.
The Knicks' fourth-quarter defense also was tremendous in pulling out the win in the third straight game they played without both Carmelo Anthony (strained groin) and Amar'e Stoudemire (death in the family).
The Timberwolves scored 87 points through three quarters. In the fourth, the Knicks held them to 11 points, only five in the last 6:40.
"We locked up," Chandler said. "It was unbelievable. It was a tough game. I didn't know where we were going to find the energy."
After Rubio's layup gave Minnesota a 98-95 lead, D'Antoni ran a play for Novak and the Knicks executed perfectly. Novak drilled the tying three-pointer. On the ensuing trip, Rubio lost the ball and the Knicks got it. Lin took his time, drove inside and was fouled by Luke Ridnour.
Lin missed the first foul shot but hit the second with 4.9 seconds remaining to put the Knicks up one. "Once I missed the first one, I was fine," he said. "I just needed to shoot that first one and get it out of my way. The first one is always the tougher one."
The Timberwolves had a chance to tie or take the lead, but Rubio turned it over again. Bill Walker was fouled with 1.3 seconds left and also hit one of two attempts. On Minnesota's final possession, Love launched a three-pointer and hit nothing -- and the Knicks celebrated another unexpected victory, with Lin in the middle of it all.
"It was an ugly one," Lin said. "It was a gutsy one. It was a road win. Everybody was tired. That's the beauty of basketball, the beauty of our team -- we never gave up."