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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets get the first laugh against the Knicks

Few could have predicted the way Jeremy Lin's Knicks career ended. Even fewer could have expected his first game against his old team to go the way it did.

Facing Lin for the first time since choosing not to match the Rockets' three-year, $25.1-million offer, the Knicks also chose not to defend Houston.

"Unacceptable'' was a word uttered several times by Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony after the Knicks gave up 131 points. Not even Mike D'Antoni's defensively challenged Knicks allowed that many points last season.

It's even more unacceptable because Woodson is a coach who stresses defense and expects his team to make things difficult for opponents.

But the Knicks gave the Rockets anything they wanted.

The Knicks showed little fight, which is the last thing you would have expected from this veteran team that keeps talking about winning a championship, especially against Lin.

In interviews before the game, Raymond Felton said he was tired of hearing the comparisons to Lin and said he has more of a body of work.

J.R. Smith said, "Personal goals, personal issues, whatever we got against Jeremy or whoever else has it against him got to let that go and make sure we get a 'W' first."

Tyson Chandler called Lin the enemy because he's on a different team.

There seemed to be a lot of emotion, but the Rockets were the ones who rose to the challenge. They looked as if they wanted to get this game for Lin.

"That team looked like they wanted to beat us," Chandler said. "I don't think it was for anybody. They came out ready to play. They kicked our butts for four quarters."

As Woodson said, a team is going to have games like that in the course of a season. It won't be remembered if the Knicks win a playoff series or two or more.

But the way the trip ended raised some red flags about them, and will put even more attention on Lin's return to the Garden on Dec. 17.

Melo-Amar'e can work

Woodson stands by his 8-2 mark with Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire on the court as the reason he believes he can make it work with the two of them.

The man who had a part in putting the two stars together along with the point guard who fed them the ball last season also believes Anthony and Stoudemire can succeed together.

"I've never bought this idea that they can't play together," former Knicks president Donnie Walsh said. "That's just nonsense."

Said Lin, "I honestly think it can work because they're so talented. I think it's also their approach to the game. I think they're both really ready to buy in and do whatever it takes and throw all that other stuff out the window, so you've just got to give them time."

Foul mood

Anthony, who leads the NBA with five technical fouls, said he has to control his frustration better when he thinks calls aren't going his way. It usually evens itself out, but Anthony had some phantom calls on the Knicks' recent trip.

He's playing aggressively and attacking, and began yesterday tied for seventh in free-throw attempts per game (6.3). Yet in Houston, Anthony shot only two free throws during his 37-point night. Rockets guard James Harden took 16 free throws and scored 33 points.

"That's always the frustrating part," Anthony said. "You look at the stat sheet and you see guys 16, 17 free throws and you look at our stats and it's two free throws, three free throws and things like that. We're trying to figure out what guys are doing differently that we're not doing."

The Knicks looked old, slow and tired in the last two games. The Rockets played too fast for them, and the Knicks couldn't keep up.

They relied too much on Anthony instead of moving the ball and working for shots the way they had been. Chandler looks worn down. Steve Novak has been a liability when he's not hitting shots, and he hasn't been making them lately. But just as it was too early to plan for a championship parade when the Knicks started 6-0 and 8-1, it's too soon to say all is lost.

The next two games should tell plenty about them -- today at MSG against an inferior Pistons team and tomorrow in Brooklyn in what should be an emotional contest.

Fields relieved after surgery

Lin's best friend last season, Landry Fields, started badly and now is out indefinitely after ulnar nerve transposition surgery to address compression/entrapment in his right elbow.

Fields, who signed a three-year, $18.8-million deal with Toronto, felt involuntary "twitches" in his right hand whenever he shot the ball. In five games, all starts, he totaled 12 points and shot 20.8 percent (5-for-24). Fields was happy they discovered what was wrong because he wasn't feeling any pain.

"I'm actually fortunate and glad that it was a problem," he said. "If this had continued to go and nobody could explain it, that would really mess me up mentally."

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