Jeremy Lin said prior to Monday night’s reunion in the Garden that he just wanted to “get it over with” and “get some closure.”
Following the Rockets’ impressive 109-96 win over the Knicks, the only thing over is New York’s unblemished home mark, as the Rockets completed the season sweep.
Lin’s 22 points, four rebounds and eight assists were more than enough to exorcise any demons he might’ve been carrying from his now-banished Linsanity days.
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson was obviously disappointed in his team’s defensive deficiency, but wasn’t ready to push any panic buttons yet. And even though the Knicks got trashed by an opposing point guard for the second-consecutive game (the Cavs’ Kyrie Irving had 41 points on Friday), Woodson sounded like a coach who’s still looking at the big picture.
“We’re sitting here at 18-6 [despite] not having a healthy or full deck because we still have key guys out,” Woodson said. “So, I’m not concerned at all.”
Perhaps Woodson should be slightly concerned considering how easily Lin and his backcourt mate, James Harden, lit up whoever was in their respective paths. Harden did the most damage, as he tallied 28 points and a team-high 10 rebounds to follow up his 33-point performance against the Knicks last month in Houston. Lin and Harden spearheaded the momentum-swinging 15-0 run in the third quarter that turned a five-point Rockets’ lead into a margin the Knicks would never be able to overcome.
“It wasn’t there tonight, so we have to get back to the drawing board and correct things,” said Woodson. “We cut [the deficit] to six or seven [in the third quarter], but then made two big turnovers, and then they made two big 3s to push the lead back up and we never recovered.”
About the only bright spot was the play of 28-year-old forward Chris Copeland. The rookie made his second career start, scoring a career-high 29 points — all of which came in the second half. New York needed some kind of offensive punch considering it was playing without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony. As a result of not having their best player, the Knicks’ four-game winning streak was snapped.
The Knicks were held to 43 percent shooting from the floor, including 29 percent from 3-point range.
“We’re disappointed to play that way on our home floor,” forward Steve Novak said. “[Copeland] did a great job of getting thrown in there. He played with energy and you could tell he was ready to be called on. It was great to see. But he was about the only bright spot for us tonight.”
The Knicks still have reason to be prideful, as their current 18-6 mark is the same record the team finished with following Woodson’s interim-based stretch to close out the 2011-12 campaign.
Copeland got very little help from his teammates, as Lin’s counterpart, point guard Raymond Felton, wasn’t up to the task. He committed a team-high three of the team’s 17 turnovers. Felton was the only other starter to score in double figures, as he notched 14 points on 7-of-18 shooting. His four assists gave him an awful 1.1-to-1 turnover-assist ratio, which hindered the Knicks’ offensive flow.
New York headed into Monday’s game as the best ball-security team in the league, averaging just 10 turnovers a game, so it was alarming to see such carelessness. Woodson’s goal of 13 or less turnovers was obliterated by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, making for a much-needed practice session on Tuesday.
But ever the optimist, Woodson said he told his team afterward they “can’t win every game” and actually gave kudos to the youngest team in the league for being a “tough matchup for us.”
»Lin got a nice ovation from the faithful, at until he scored the Rockets’ first bucket off a sweet backdoor cut that lost Felton. From that point on, he was treated as a visitor — particularly after center Tyson Chandler clobbered a driving Lin with an elbow to the head, drawing a flagrant foul, in the first half. That was about the only time the Knicks imposed their will, as they allowed the Rockets to shoot .513 from the field and notch 25 transition points.
»Lin wasn’t about to crow after the win, as he remained humble, saying the Knicks aren’t “fully healthy and are missing key guys — especially Shump [Iman Shumpert].”
He added the treatment from the fans was “actually a lot better than I thought.” And he even absolved Chandler for rough treatment on the flagrant foul, saying “it wasn’t malicious. He was like a big brother to me last year.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.