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Lin and the Knicks Get a Much-Needed Laugher

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks shoots against the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden on February 15, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

As the Knicks cruised into the fourth quarter last night with a 77–55 lead over the Kings in front of an engaged, giddy, lusty Madison Square Garden crowd, we joked on Twitter that "You know, if this Knicks game would have taken place three weeks ago, the Knicks would be up by enough to let Jeremy Lin play." A good line, we thought, but the thing is: That's exactly what happened the last time the Knicks played the Kings. On New Year's Eve, the Knicks beat the Kings 114–92, soundly enough that Mike D'Antoni let Jeremy Lin spin for the last four minutes. He was 0-for-1 from the field with an assist, a steal, and a turnover. Over the next 24 days, he would play twice more, totaling eight minutes. Last night, though, the blowout didn't give him a chance to play; it gave him, at last, a chance to rest.

Lin set a career high in assists last night with 13, despite sitting out most of the second half. He notched only 26 minutes, the least (by far) since this madness began just eleven days ago. (Seriously: It has only been eleven days.) The Knicks dominated the first quarter and never looked back, even withstanding extended minutes from Mike Bibby, who sort of looks like the guy in RoboCop after he falls in the toxic waste these days. (Except with a head band.) It was certainly noteworthy that the Knicks' offense locked up and stalled the minute Lin left in the first half. The Knicks point guard play before Linsanity arrived was so bad that now that he's here, they still need a backup at the point. Perhaps when Baron Davis is released from his hyperbaric healing chamber, he will serve that role.

It was a quiet night for Linsanity, which you absolutely could not tell from the Garden crowd, which was roaring to welcome home the best traveling road show in sports right now. The Garden has gone nuts several times the last few years — and let's not overlook how nuts it will get for these upcoming Rangers playoff games — but what's happening now, because of Jeremy Lin, is something altogether new and crazy. It's an organic lunacy, the unadulterated bliss of an arena and a fan base that understands it's at the center of the sports universe for the first time in several decades and is stepping up for the occasion. It's really something to witness. If you can figure out a way to get out to the Garden this next week — and this might require donating a kidney or robbing a bank — you really should. It hasn't been like this in a long, long time.

And we haven't even talked about the fact that they booed poor Kings rookie guard Isaiah Thomas every time he touched the ball. A particularly proud moment for Knicks fans, if you ask us.

So, the Knicks are now at .500 for the first time since January 14. That was right when that wretched losing streak was beginning. There's no reason to think anything like that is happening anytime soon for the Knicks. And Carmelo Anthony returns Friday. These are the good times. Knicks fans have been waiting a decade for an exciting, competitive team. This is what they were waiting for. This is, in fact, more than they were waiting for.

Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images