Jeremy Lin returned to Madison Square Garden on Monday night and did not disappoint anyone, except for all the New York fans looking for a Knicks win. With Carmelo Anthony out nursing his ankle injury this game was more about Jeremy Lin than anyone else. He ultimately finished with 22 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and two steals. But James Harden put his stamp all over the game as well; Harden scored 28 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. With Harden and Lin performing quite well, it was no surprise New York couldn’t keep up with Melo on the sideline.
Even though the Rockets are an average team at 12-12 after Monday’s win, they showed one and all how important Melo is to the Knicks. Chris Copeland had a big game filling in for Anthony with 29 points in 28 minutes on 11-19 shooting, but it just didn’t feel the same without Anthony. The defense did not seem to have its usual presence and the energy level was not quite there. The Rockets shot 51% from the field while the Knicks managed only 43%.
It was a fairly sloppy game with both teams committing about 17 turnovers and New York shooting below average from three (29%) and a poor 56% from the free-throw line. They only got to the free throw line 16 times (Melo can get close to that on any given night) and again, did not play adequate defense as the Rockets got to the line 24 times (and shot much better, 79%).
While the Rockets may be a mediocre group as a whole, James Harden is not a mediocre player. He is on the verge of becoming a superstar; if he isn’t there already. For fans in the Garden, while they surely would have liked to get a victory, got to see one of the NBA’s best offensive threats play a very good game.
The Knicks, as it stands, are in first place in the Eastern conference and remain tied for the second best record in the league with the Los Angeles Clippers at 18-6. They have won eight of their last ten games and can only be happy about where they find themselves nearing about a third of the way through the season.
So yeah, we shouldn’t be nitpicking too much.
The Knicks were certainly more focused on getting Anthony some needed rest for his ankle than making sure that they were able to win the game. That’s because they will take today to rest and then prepare to host the Nets in Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night on ESPN. That game will undoubtedly be a game of emphasis for the Knicks who have split the season series with their cross-town rivals one to one after their first two matchups.
The first of two games saw an overtime thriller go Brooklyn’s way; the second game was yet another thriller that fell to the Knicks after Jason Kidd’s heroic three-point shot gave New York a three point lead in the closing moments. Anthony was spectacular, too, scoring a season high 45 points in their second meeting just last Tuesday.
Mike Woodson will be hopeful that Anthony can make his return for this game, and I wouldn’t doubt that he will. He would hate to miss one of these matchups, especially with it being the first in the Garden between these two teams. Seeing as this is the NBA’s best rivalry, everyone will be anxious to see if he will be able to play. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for a dramatic return to the floor for one of this year’s leading MVP candidates.