Jeremy Lin continues to show that no stage or opponent is too big for him.
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The Knicks' eighth win in nine games was their most impressive during this Lin-led run. The Knicks were down 11 with three minutes left in the third quarter but charged back behind Lin to beat the fifth-stingiest defense in the NBA.
"The game that he had," coach Mike D'Antoni said, "that's ridiculous."
"I was talking to them before the game and they were saying they had an answer for Lin," former Maverick Tyson Chandler said. "I guess they were wrong in the scouting report."
The Mavericks played Lin differently from any other team he's faced during this incredible run. They had 6-7 forward Shawn Marion, a premier defender, on Lin most of the game. Jason Kidd was on him, too.
The Mavericks trapped Lin and doubled him late, but he continued to show he's unflappable and can adjust. In the fourth period, Lin had six points and six assists.
"He's a fast learner and he picks things up," D'Antoni said. "The thing you can't teach is what he has inside his heart. You can't teach that. He has it. His brain, his heart -- it's huge."
Lin shot 11-for-20 and buried a huge three-pointer over Nowitzki with 2:57 left to put the Knicks up five. Lin had another high-turnover game with seven, including six after halftime. But he made five steals and helped the Knicks, who were without Carmelo Anthony for the seventh consecutive game, to another balanced scoring effort.
Newly signed J.R. Smith had 15 points off the bench in his Knicks debut. Steve Novak scored all 14 of his points in the fourth quarter. Chandler had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Landry Fields had 13 points and Amar'e Stoudemire 11.
"When you play like that on offense and you have a lot of weapons going at the same time, something's going to open up, something's going to give," Lin said. "We just tried to balance that out and get everybody involved."
Nowitzki scored 34 points for Dallas, which looked primed to run away from the Knicks in the third. But taking their cue from Lin, the Knicks stuck with it. Novak provided the huge lift in the fourth, scoring 14 of the Knicks' first 15 points. Lin buried a three to give the Knicks a 90-81 edge with 6:51 to go.
The Mavericks cut the Knicks' lead to 95-93 after Lin's turnover led to Jason Terry's three. Lin atoned on the next trip, showing his mettle and his ability to block everything out. He knocked down a three-pointer as Nowitzki lunged at him, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
"I was watching them win the championship last year, and that's obviously where this team wants to go," Lin said. "This is helpful to us, not just me but to us, just to be able to see where our team can go and what we can become. I think that's the biggest takeaway."
Dallas was within three again after Marion's layup with 1:07 left. After a wasted Knicks trip, Terry had a look at a three to tie it, but he missed. Lin got the rebound and passed ahead to Smith for a layup and a five-point lead with 28.5 seconds left.
"I think this was the best team effort we've had all year," Chandler said. "I feel like we were really hitting on all cylinders. We have a balance now. We really have a balance now. You can see it will be that much better when we get Melo back."