Jeremy Lin's 22-point, eight-assist effort inside Madison Square Garden on December 17 wasn't exactly the same kind of dominance that he showed during his brief tenure with the New York Knicks in 2011-12.
But it wasn't too far off, either.
In his first game back inside his former home, Lin led his Houston Rockets (12-12) to a 109-96 win over the New York Knicks (18-6).
He was decisive with the basketball, carving up New York's defense with the same relentless penetration he'd brought them just months ago.
In 2011-12, the Harvard grad changed the Knicks' fortune with a season-saving effort known simply as Linsanity.
But New York changed Lin's future just a few months later. The Knicks encouraged the restricted free agent to seek out a contract for them to match, then balked at the price tag that the Rockets set.
It was a tough pill to swallow for a player who had embraced the Big Apple in the same manner that Knicks fans embraced him. New York had offered Lin his first legitimate chance at NBA success, and he pounced on that opportunity.
Returning to the Garden as a member of the visiting team was bittersweet for Lin. But his productive night (and the fact that it came in a win) offered Lin "a little bit of closure" (according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports).
But that closure won't come so easily if Lin is sitting at home in April while the Knicks are running rampant in the postseason.
Sneaking their way into the Western Conference playoffs will be no small task for the Rockets.
The Houston Rockets will make the playoffs in 2013?
They are already in ninth place, with two teams behind them (Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks) expected to make their own playoff pushes when their injured stars return (Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, respectively).
For the Rockets to make that run, they'll need better control of the basketball. Their 16.5 turnovers per game are the most in the NBA. Lin and backcourt mate James Harden have combined for 6.6 of those turnovers.
They'll also need a renewed focus on the defensive end. The Rockets have allowed 103.7 points per game (the second-worst average in the league).
This may prove a trying task for coach Kevin McHale. The Rockets lack an intimidating shot-blocker in the middle (Omer Asik is the only player averaging over one block per game with 1.2), a problem compounded by their leaky perimeter defense.
More than anything, though, they'll need more Lintage moments like the one he showed inside the Garden. He's finally pushed his field-goal percentage above 40 (40.7 to be exact), but it's still a far cry from the 44.6 mark he set in 2011-12.
He doesn't have superstar talent, but his motor is unmatched in the league. He maximizes his natural abilities—a rare trait for professional athletes.
But he'll need that to force that same kind of effort out of his teammates to truly put his Knicks days behind him.
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