Jeremy Lin and the Knicks did it again. Lin outdueled Kobe Bryant (what?), Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries outplayed Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol (what?) and the Knicks stole a win before playing a solid Timberwolves team Saturday night in Minnesota. Here's how it went down:
The first quarter started off slowly, with the first points being scored after two minutes had been played. How were they scored, you ask? Kobe hit two free throws. How did he get to the line? Landry Fields bought the pump fake. It's amazing how the league seems to have not adjusted to this.
Lin responded with a three-pointer. Who says he can't shoot? Sample size of one be damned! Actually, Lin showed a lethal touch from 15 to 18 feet as Derek Fisher went under picks, but Chandler's pick completely took Fisher out of the play.
The Lakers failed to take advantage of their size down low in the first quarter. They took too many jump shots, posted up too far from the basket or were too late with the entry pass, allowing the Knicks to move the Lakers off their spots.
They also did not dominate the glass. Both teams grabbed 11 rebounds and the Lakers grabbed only two offensive rebounds. This was a byproduct of boxing out and having three or four Knicks consistently crash the boards. They looked to double Bynum in the post, and did not send help on Gasol. Sound strategy.
Jeffries hit an 18-footer. The Mayans said 2012 right?
Player of the Game?
For some reason, the Knicks decided to double Bryant below the free-throw line. I understand he is a great scorer, but he is not Nick Young. Both times, Kobe passed out of the double team, leading to two opens looks. The Lakers cashed in on one, a Matt Barnes three.
Both Lin and Steve Novak got steals when applying pressure before the half-court line. Those sloppy turnovers were more a sign of a tired team than great defense.
All in all, the Knicks played the Lakers off the court, but ended ahead by just seven. So they started the game strong, but they should have been ahead by double digits.
After reports of a king on a white horse, Jeffries started the scoring with a drive, hop step and finish over Bynum—2012 right?
The Lakers looked out of sorts without Bryant on the floor. They took too long to get into their offense. This is one of the major reasons that the Lakers have no chance to win a title this season without changing the roster. The Lakers are a three-man team and then quality of the roster falls off a cliff.
Jeffries got a three-point play in transition and immediately there were reports of a king on a red horse with a giant sword.
The Knicks were solid on offense without Lin to begin the second quarter. Then he came in and converted a three-point play. Let no one forget his awesomeness!
The Lakers continued to give the ball to Gasol at the top of the key. I understand he is a great passer, but that is the only threat he can be out there. The lack of the triangle offense is killing this guy. He probably spends hours looking at the photo album of his fishing trip with Phil Jackson in Alaska. Gasol may miss the peyote and fish, but he misses that offense the most.
Novak hit a three with that sweet jumper when the Lakers were on a mini-run. He carried the bench in that first half as Shumpert struggled. How sweet is his jump shot? Well, it's sweet to taste (saccharin). Yeah...it's hot (say what), too hot. Sticky sweet. From...hmm...making references to Revelations and Def Leppard. Is that the best way to entertain my audience?
Second half of the second quarter saw the Knicks defense fall apart. They gave up open shots and fouled needlessly. I love Shumpert's tenacity on the defensive end, but he's got to realize he's a rookie going against Bryant. The refs will not hesitate to call the tickiest-tackiest fouls they can.
As the Knicks appeared to let the Lakers back into the game, Lin hits a spinning jumper in the paint and then, like a swirling dervish (I love Clyde-isms), spun by Fisher and laid it in. Turns out he was an economics major. I'm not a big fan of salt water schools' ideas on economics, but at this rate President Obama should ask for some solutions to this economic situation we are having right now.
Jeffries missed horribly on an 18-footer. The third seal remains closed.
Toward the end of the second, the Lakers trapped Lin hard off the pick-and-roll with Kobe as the primary defender. It was a similar logic that led to Phil Jackson putting Scottie Pippen on Mark Jackson in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. You cut off the head of the snake and the body will die (viva Zapata!).
Once again, the Knicks outplayed the Lakers, but only increased the lead by one point. They were only minus-three on the rebounding differential; they limited the Lakers to four offensive rebounds; they forced the Lakers to take tons of jumpers. So what was wrong?
Lakers bench: 6-of-14, 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals
Knicks bench: 3-of-13 FG, 11 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 3 steals
At this point, I felt like I did Super Bowl Sunday. Can someone explain to me how the Giants could so thoroughly outperform the Patriots in the first half and be down 10-9, then look like they were going to get blown out after the Pats made it 17-9 even though the Giants had been the better team overall? If they had lost that game it would have been the worst loss the Giants have had in my entire life. Yes, I'm aware of a certain game against the 49ers and a certain game against the Eagles.
The Lakers started the third with Fisher on Lin. Also Metta World Peace started the third quarter. Why? Because Mike Brown secretly wanted the Knicks to win? Because Mike Brown is a huge John Lennon fan?
I think Hubie Brown might be the ultimate drinking game color commentator in the NBA. You could base the entire game off the phrase "You've got to give ____ credit."
The Knicks started double teaming Kobe farther away from the basket. That is something I can get behind. Especially with the commitment the Knicks showed attacking the glass. It's just, when it comes to doubling Bryant on the baseline, most of the time he will spin baseline. The primary defender has to anticipate this and beat him to the spot.
Walker missed a wide-open three by a mile. Walker’s basketball IQ finds ways to disappoint. When you have the ability to consistently get by World Peace and put the Laker bigs in a position to foul, that should not encourage the shooting of long jump shots.
World Peace showed an unwillingness to wave the white flag in America's favorite game, "How Low Can Your IQ Go?" in the middle of the third. Three fouls in 30 seconds. The Lakers went from two team fouls to four team foul in half a minute. Unreal.
In the third quarter, the Lakers showed how hard it is to execute on offense when no one on the floor has the ability to break down the defense. However, that should lead to more entry passes into the post and fewer jump shots. Fortunately for the Knicks, this was not the case. And there was much rejoicing.
Walker must have read my mind when he faked a three and drove for a layup. I like to think I make a difference.
The Lakers cut the lead to four on the back of knocking down some jump shots, the Knicks' propensity to foul and Bynum hedging hard (euphemism for fouling Lin) on every pick-and-roll that Chandler and Lin tried to execute. The latter completely disrupted the Knicks' offensive flow. I mean Bynum is fouling a guy who is 90 lbs lighter than he is. How isn't that going to disrupt the offensive flow? Other than the Heat, no team gets an advantage from the referees like the Lakers.
Once again, Lin went on a scoring spurt to push the Knicks' lead back to eight. For the Lakers, Bryant took over with Gasol and Bynum on the bench to keep the lead to single digits and ultimately have the Lakers end the quarter down six.
The Knicks had missed eight fouls shots through the third quarter. Ugh.
Bill Walker drained a three that helped stop the Lakers' mini-run to start the fourth quarter. Did I like the decision? No. Did I care after he made it? No.
The Knicks played poorly on defense to start the fourth. Not only were they giving up open looks, but they were getting outworked on the glass by a team that was playing the second game of a back-to-back in the fourth quarter.
After a timeout and with their lead cut to three, the Knicks got their groove back. With Lin back in, fluid offense and stifling defense led New York on a 6-0 run, the highlight of which was Shumpert blowing by Bryant for some kind of dunk-layup hybrid. He went to throw it down, but it kind of slipped out of his hand and went in. What do you call that? That's been an unpleasant surprise with Shumpert. For a guy with his athleticism, he blows quite a few dunks and layups.
At some point after that, Kobe rifled the ball against the backboard after being trapped, got his rebound, and kicked it to Gasol, who hit a 12-foot jumper. Wow.
After that bit of ridiculousness, Lin drove and kicked out to Shumpert, who had a wide-open three. Instead of shooting he drove hard to the basket, got fouled by Bynum and completed a three-point play. I was so proud.
Most badass moment of the night: Lin sized up Gasol and nailed a dagger (long two). Cold-blooded!
After that moment of ectothermicness, the Knicks' Chinese water dragon drilled a three-pointer in the corner after a Chandler offensive rebound. Chandler and Jeffries did a great job rebounding, and more importantly keeping the Lakers off the glass as much as they did, thus allowing other Knicks to grab rebounds. It's no coincidence that most of the damage done by the Lakers on the glass occurred when Chandler or both Chandler and Jeffries were out.
After all of that awesome play, the Knicks turned the ball over three times in a row, allowing the Lakers to cut the lead to eight. The Lakers then blew two point-blank opportunities to cut it to six. New York teams like to make you sweat. And then the Lakers cut the game to six after Gasol got a putback slam due to Jeffries not boxing out. Preceding that, Lin and Kobe traded baskets. Who on earth could have predicted a Lin-Kobe shootout before Linsanity began?
Bynum then fouled Chandler by winding up for a block and getting his head. While I don't like refs calling flagrant fouls, it should have been one based on how it is called in this soft NBA. Chandler missed both free throws, and then Blake missed a wide-open three. I'm convinced that New York teams like to torture their fans.
Not only did Lin score a ton of points, but his quick rotation off Matt Barnes led to a game-icing charge. What can't he do? I'm certain that given the chance, he could lead our country out of this recession. My boy's wicked smaht. I mean he led the Knicks out of a basketball recession and has a major in economics from Harvard. I mean at Harvard, their bars have equations and sh*t on the walls.
This was a game the Knicks could steal and they made out like Danny Ocean. They mitigated the Lakers' advantage down low and made Bryant work diligently for his points. And Jeremy Lin turned out to be a golden god. I'm sure he jumped off his brother's apartment into a bush, echoing that sentiment.
And to think, it's all because Golden State cut him to offer DeAndre Jordan a contract. Then he was cut by the Rockets to make room for Samuel Dalembert. Then he was signed to the Knicks because Shumpert got hurt opening day. And he only got an opportunity after Shumpert (not good), Davis (not physically fit to play yet) and Douglas (unspeakably awful) all failed to claim the role of point guard. Disney would probably toss a movie script like this out the window.
On a more serious note, the humility and likeability of Lin impress me. This is why we love sports. This guy is living out his dream, not taking anything for granted and loving every minute of it. He worked hard for everything he got on the basketball court and now he's the marquee star at the World's Most Famous Arena. The only thing that can make this story even better is winning.