The undrafted point guard out of Harvard gave the Knicks, playing for the third consecutive night, the energy and lift they needed. He also had the best game by a Knicks point guard this season.
Lin came off the bench to score a career-high 25 points Saturday night and added seven assists with only one turnover. He took it to All-Star guard Deron Williams and the Nets in the Knicks' 99-92 victory.
The Madison Square Garden fans chanted "Jer-e-mee" during his 12-point fourth quarter and the players on the bench waved their towels and raised their arms. After leading the Knicks to only their third win in the last 14 games, Lin was mobbed by his teammates.
"It just hasn't really sunk in yet," he said. "I'm still kind of in shock by everything that happened. I'm just trying to soak it all in right now."
The Knicks (9-15) signed Lin, a second-year guard, to a non-guaranteed contract in December after he was waived by Houston. They sent him to the NBA D-League for three games last month, and until recently, he was mostly a garbage-time player.
The move worked wonders for D'Antoni, whose job security has been a major question lately. After Lin's 10-for-19 performance in 36 minutes, the big question became: Can he become the starting point guard?
That position has been the Knicks' weakness, and D'Antoni said he will think about starting Lin, who got in the paint and made plays for himself and his teammates. "The biggest thing is he's got a point-guard mentality," D'Antoni said. "He can give us something we can't do without. We have been struggling with it."
With the score tied at 82 midway through the fourth quarter, Lin took over, contributing nine points and an assist in a 15-4 run. During that game-clinching burst, he split the defense, drove for a basket and was fouled. On the next trip, Lin drove past Williams and scored again to make it 97-86 with 1:36 left.
"I just wanted to be able to make plays," Lin said. "I'm just trying to put pressure and then see what happens."
"He won the game for us,'' Anthony said. "He picked us up offensively. We fed off his energy. Down the stretch, we put the ball in his hands. He won the game for us."