After his dizzying performance Saturday night, eyes will be on the point guard to see if he can do it again. Lin is expected to play meaningful minutes and might even start Monday night when the Knicks host the Jazz.
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After Lin came off the bench for a 25-point, seven-assist breakout game in the Knicks' 99-92 win over the Nets, Mike D'Antoni said he might start him against Utah. He praised Lin's "poise" and defense. More than anything, Lin drove into the middle of the defense, set up his teammates or scored himself -- all the things the Knicks have been missing from the point guard position.
"We're going back to the well because he can give us something we can't do without," D'Antoni said. "We'll keep working and trying to smooth things out and try to get guys used to him playing."
Lin said he was "a little overwhelmed" Saturday night -- understandably so. An undrafted second-year guard out of Harvard, Lin had played 54 minutes all season before spending most of his 36 minutes outplaying All-Star point guard Deron Williams. In the fourth quarter, Lin had the Garden crowd chanting "JER-E-MEE! JER-E-MEE!" -- and his teammates on the bench waving towels to urge them to cheer louder.
Said Amar'e Stoudemire, "I think fans love underdogs here in New York."
Lin was waived by Golden State and Houston in December before the Knicks signed him to a non-guaranteed contract. Because he mostly played in garbage time, the Knicks sent Lin to the D-League last month for extra work. He had a triple-double in a game for the Erie BayHawks, but it would have been hard to foresee the kind of night he had Saturday.
Lin was a prime candidate to be waived if the Knicks sign J.R. Smith or another veteran. But D'Antoni played Lin in meaningful minutes Friday night in Boston, and after Saturday's game, it looks as though he has earned an opportunity to show he should stick around.
"There have been really down times for me, last year and this year, but this is obviously one of the highs," Lin said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity. Obviously, I don't always know if that's going to be there or not."
Iman Shumpert has been starting at point guard, but D'Antoni has said the rookie is more of a shooting guard or small forward. Backup point guard Toney Douglas has been inconsistent. Veteran Mike Bibby is a part-time player at this stage and hasn't left the bench the past four games.
Baron Davis' debut remains on hold as he works on his conditioning and stamina and rehabs from a herniated disc.
The Knicks need someone to run the team and will see if Lin can do it consistently. "He has a rhyme or reason to what he's doing," D'Antoni said. "You can kind of play off that. If you don't know, you're grasping at straws. He gives us a good feel. Again, it's one game. Let's not get too excited. But it's something we sorely needed. We have to take it one step at a time."