The question had to be asked of Jeremy Lin, considering he was back at the home of “Linsanity” on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden and had just led a third-quarter comeback that gave the Nets back-to-back wins over the Knicks, his former team, in the space of five days.
Was it special to get two wins against the Knicks, who now are the only team the 13-54 Nets have beaten twice this season? “Two wins in a few days is already special enough, and I don’t say that to make fun of ourselves,” Lin said. “I say that because it is important for us to see success, to do better, and to see these two wins in [five] days is nice.”
No joke. At halftime, the Nets trailed by seven after shooting 2-for-16 from three-point range, including 0-for-5 by Lin. But the point guard and center Brook Lopez pushed the right buttons, and the Nets put together a stellar third-quarter comeback that boosted them to a 121-110 win over the Knicks.
Lin scored nine of his 15 points and the Nets shot 6-for-9 from three-point range in the third quarter as they outscored the Knicks 38-26.
“Jeremy gives us huge confidence,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “He’s the motor. We never put our head down. We didn’t get discouraged that we were missing shots. He kept the pace . . . He was lifting the group in there, he and Brook.”
Lopez topped the Nets with 24 points. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 20 points and 10 rebounds and rookie Caris LeVert had 13 points and seven rebounds. Lin had eight assists.
Atkinson praised Hollis-Jefferson for his defense, as he helped to hold Carmelo Anthony to 17 points and 6-for-18 shooting. The second-year forward credited the veteran leaders for keeping the Nets together through a 1-27 stretch before they finally turned it around to go 4-5 in the past nine.
Describing the halftime scene, Hollis-Jefferson said of Lin and Lopez, “They’re our leaders. We go when they go. I just think Jeremy is like the spokesperson when it comes to positivity, just trying to make everything feel at ease. It’s phenomenal the way he does it. He just kind of rubs off on everybody. He rubs off on Brook.
“So when you see Brook in a positive light and starting to pull us, it’s like, ‘All right, Jeremy and Brook are on this note? We’ve all got to be on this note, following suit.’ ”
Of course, it’s no coincidence that the turnaround came after Lin returned to the lineup following two hamstring injuries.
“I feel like my words carry more weight when I’m actually out there with them,” Lin said. “Even for me, when I’m playing with them, that’s what I signed up for, and I love being with this group of guys.
“In the first 50 games of the season, that record we had was not indicative of the guys in this locker room. Guys are playing for each other even more so. Not that they weren’t before, but it’s a different level where you can see the progress being made.”