The Knicks continued their hot streak with a resounding 100-85 win over the Kings.
Led by Jeremy Lin’s 10 points and a career-high 13 assists, the Knicks (15-15) rolled to their seventh-straight win and got back to the .500 mark for the first time since Jan. 14. This was the second game of New York’s five-game home stand and arguably the most important of them all, as this was the first home game since Lin outdueled Kobe Bryant last Friday and the first game since Lin nailed the game-winning 3 in Toronto on Tuesday night, so expectations were at a season’s high.
While Lin never seemed fazed by the hoopla, he said he’s almost in awe of the experience and truly appreciates what this magical ride has done for him and the team.
“The thing that has been interesting to me is how well the team has put everything aside,” Lin said. “When we were losing and everyone was blaming coach saying it was his fault, which it was not, we could’ve pointed fingers and split up. But everyone stayed together. And once we won one game we built off that. … Our camaraderie is ridiculous.”
Lin and Co. have been ridiculous during this stretch. And their quick spurt out the gate didn’t disappoint the faithful either.The Knicks led nearly wire-to-wire. The Kings (10-19) took an early 7-5 lead, but that was about as good as it would get as the Knicks went on an 18-6 run to close out the opening quarter. Amar’e Stoudemire had nine of his 11 points in the first quarter in what was his first home appearance since the tragic death of his older brother.
Stoudemire wasn’t alone in his hot start, as Lin chipped in with five points, six assists and no turnovers and spearheaded a Knicks’ barrage that included numerous fastbreak lobs and a torrid 50 percent from the field. Lin’s good buddy — and former roommate — Landry Fields added seven of his 15 points in the opening quarter to go along with a team-high 10 rebounds and five assists.
Lin said the bond he and Fields have on the floor far precedes him staying on Fields’s couch while Lin was still looking for a place to live during the early stages of Linsanity. The two were fast friends while Fields was setting school and Pac-10 records at Stanford. The Palo Alto school was also a dream choice for the native Californian Lin, but he didn’t get a scholarship, forcing him to go to Harvard instead.
What was Stanford’s loss was the Ivy League school’s gain. Lin has no regrets and said he looks back on those pickup runs with Fields as a template for what was to happen down the road.
“[The chemistry] definitely goes back some to our Palo Alto days,” Lin said of his time playing pickup with Fields. “We hung out some and played lots together in pickups and developed a chemistry. … Hopefully that carries over into helping us win some games here, too.”
The carry-over from the thrilling Toronto win the previous night was obvious. While the Kings appeared flat and out of sorts, the Knicks played uptempo and hustled after every loose ball opportunity.
Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni said the defense was what got the team ignited and it snowballed into the success of their offense.
“Anytime you play well on defense you get excited and it raises your game elsewhere,” D’Antoni said. “Tyson [Chandler] has raised that [intensity] and even a guy like Iman Shumpert coming off the bench has done it for us, too. … [Defense] is contagious.”
The Kings, also coming off the back-end of a back-to-back, played like success was a deadly contagion. They looked sluggish from the onset and never got anything going. They were led by Tyreke Evans’s 19 points and also received 13 points from Marcus Thornton. DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and the lustily-booed Isaiah Thomas chipped in with 14 points, but by the time Sacramento’s big scorers reached double figures, the Knicks had already subbed out their starters for good.
D’Antoni gave the Kings a mercy substitution at the 5:44 mark of the fourth quarter when he trotted out afterthoughts like Toney Douglas, Jerome Jordan and Renaldo Balkman. By then, the Garden was in a frenzy, even chanting “MVP” for Lin and carrying on as if it was a playoff game.
D’Antoni tried to downplay the mania afterwards and said that even with all this early success, Lin is still a work in progress.
“Where he’ll make his progress is noticing the situations. If it’s open, you score. And if not, hit the open man,” D’Antoni said. “I like that he had 10 points and 13 assists. But whatever he needs to do to win he’ll do. … Maybe next time he might need to hit for 35 [points].”
»The win snapped the Knicks’ four-game home losing streak to the Kings and the seven-straight overall wins is a new season high.
»This was the first time at least seven Knicks went for double-digit scoring since 2009.
» The 85 points allowed was the ninth time this season the Knicks held an opponent under 90 points. They’re 9-0 in such games.
» This was Lin’s second career double-double and a career-high in assists.
» Steve Novak recorded a four-point play with 2:21 remaining in the second quarter. It was the second time this season a Knick had done so (Toney Douglas, Jan. 2).
» Diminutive point guard Isaiah Thomas may be asking “What’s in a name?” because the Kings backup was roundly booed by the faithful the entire night and it had nothing to do with his play or even the fact he was on the opposing team. Thomas, who shares the same name -- but different spelling -- of the reviled former Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, said he saw the booing coming. But while he thought it might be a one-time jeering, Thomas (no relation to Isiah) was shocked at the rude treatment. He took it all in stride and even had a laugh afterwards: “I knew they’d boo me at least once. I didn’t think they’d do it the whole game.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.