Linnin' and Winnin'
Like Toy Story 3, The Bourne Ultimatum (that is, if you were not turned off by Paul Greengrass' desire to make a film that both wows and nauseates its audience), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the third installment of Lin's trilogy as the Knicks' starting point guard proved to be his best, as he went nine of 14 with 23 points, 10 assists and only two turnovers.
The first quarter saw certain Knicks fall into some bad habits that drive fans crazy: The team was shooting too many threes (even if they were open looks); Jared Jeffries shot more than one jumper; and the ball started to stick when Lin went to the bench with two fouls. All of these are bad.
Wizards center JaVale McGee made his presence felt by grabbing seven rebounds and contesting countless shots at the rim. Rim protectors are going to cause serious problems for the Knicks when Amare Stoudemire is out, especially with the way most of the Knicks are shooting from the perimeter.
The term “regression to the mean” comes to mind when describing the second quarter.
The Wizards had only one turnover in the first quarter. They had seven in the second quarter, however, which led to 14 points for the Knicks.
New York also could not continue shooting as bad as the team did in the first quarter (25 percent). Steve Novak was the MVP of the second quarter, hitting five of six from three-point range and even knocking down an unassisted three.
Lin did Lin things in the second quarter. He ran the pick and roll well with Chandler and Jeffries, penetrated and kicked to wide-open shooters (actually, "shooter," as Novak is the only Knick who is consistent from beyond five feet) and, most importantly, kept his dribble.
If there is one thing in particular that drove me crazy about Toney Douglas playing point guard, it was his inability to keep his dribble. A point guard who constantly picks up his dribble 25 feet from the hoop is about as impotent as Daniel Dreiberg.
Lin continuing his dribble keeps his options open, keeps the defense on edge and allows him to exploit late defensive openings.
Those four minutes of Mike Bibby should scare the life out Knicks fans. Just hope that Lin keeps drinking Michael Jordan's secret stuff and stays out of foul trouble.
The first two minutes of the third quarter showed a bit why Bill Walker is an Eddie House-type player and should be utilized as such. When he's got it, he has it right from the get-go and can keep a team in the game on the offensive end (see NYK vs. MIA).
When he doesn't have it, however, he doesn't have it from the outset. His propensities to jack up threes and commit acts of very low basketball IQ make you question if he is a Wizard at heart.
Someone needs to explain why the refs called the foul on the floor when Tyson Chandler was fouled in midair converting an alley-oop, while they gave John Wall a continuation when he took a step after being fouled.
Overall, the first seven minutes of the third quarter played a lot like that awful first quarter for the Knicks.
Odd D'Antoni lineup: Lin, Fields, Shumpert, Novak and Chandler. When getting torched on defense and having trouble on the boards, Novak (the one-dimensional stretch 4), not Jeffries, is the solution. This is why you have to stop dribble penetration. Every time Chandler has to contest a penetrator, it leaves his man clear for offensive rebounding opportunities.
In response to that stroke of fortune, the Wizards decided to substitute in Jan Vesely...at center. When you have an advantage on the boards, switch to playing small ball.
I hear that Lin is religious. So, when the Wizards parted like the Red Sea, leading to a Lin drive and dunk that began 30 feet from the rim, was that God parting the defense or the Wizards being the Wizards?
I would like to dub those last five minutes of that third quarter as "Linning Time."
To start the fourth quarter, the Wizards played four guards and Vesely. And, here I was, thinking that protecting the rim and rebounding were integral parts of winning basketball. Silly me.
Does anyone else find what Roger Mason does with his legs on his jump shot weird? I think Dick Barnett's kick back was iconic (yes, I'm saying this as a Knicks fan), but Mason's got something odd going on with his legs.
The fourth quarter began rough for the Knicks, but the Wizards' interesting (is that the right word?) lineup decisions let the Knicks push the lead to double digits and they never looked back.
Shades of the 1983 national championship game, with Chandler slamming home an air ball before the shot clock expired (yes, I know Lorenzo Charles beat the game clock).
In addition to all that was mentioned above, Iman Shumpert had himself a quietly effective night, going six for 11 and scoring 17. More importantly, he had four free-throw attempts (all of which he sank) and only two three-point attempts. He is too good at slashing and shooting free throws to average almost twice as many three-point attempts as free-throw attempts.
Landry Fields, while not shooting well from outside, got into the paint consistently and grabbed eight rebounds. As we have seen, the more fluid the offense, the better Fields plays. Now, if only he can get back to shooting the three-ball like he did last season.
What can you say about Chandler? He cleans up the glass, alters and blocks shots, runs the pick and roll fantastically, finishes at the rim, gets bigs in foul trouble and shoots above 75 percent from the line. Okay, it turns out there is a lot you can say about Chandler.
The Lakers historically have had problems with penetrating guards. Can the Lin saga join the ranks of the tetralogies with four quality parts like...hmm…any ideas on a quality tetralogy?
Look for a preview on late Thursday/early Friday.