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Lin, Rockets Breeze Past the Knicks Again

Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets heads for the net as Raymond Felton #2 of the New York Knicks defends on December 17, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Note the open lane, again.

Last night was surely a joyous evening for Jeremy Lin and his family and friends, many of whom are still bewildered and angry about how his time with the Knicks ended. (As we reported in GQ, his sister-in-law, who is also one of his business managers, actually went on vacation during free agency, they'd had so many assurances from the Knicks that he'd be staying here.) Lin scored 22 points and dished out eight assists in an easy 109–96 win over the Knicks, and that will of course be the story this morning, as it should be. But these things do not happen in a vacuum. Lin did not just land in New York, decide it's time to kick ass, and start whacking the Knicks around. Lin (along with James Harden, who had 28 points) played terrifically last night. But the Knicks made it awfully easy for him.

The Knicks have played, really, just two lousy games this year, and for whatever reason, both of them have come against the Rockets. They were missing Carmelo Anthony last night, but it's difficult to argue that he would have made much of a difference considering how lousy the Knicks' interior defense was. The Rockets drove the lane without much of a worry in the world — even after Tyson Chandler knocked Lin nearly into the third row on one drive, drawing a flagrant foul — and basically vivisected the Knicks defense from every possible angle. The Rockets are only 12–12 and have struggled on offense in the last week or so, but against the Knicks, they look like the old D'Antoni Suns.

The Knicks didn't hit many shots themselves, particularly in the second half, though Chris Copeland somehow ended up with 29 points, something you totally won't remember happening by the end of the year. It was, in all ways, a wipeout, the Knicks' first home loss of the season (they were the final NBA team to notch a home loss) and the sort of game you want to forget about immediately. But one suspects, because of the Lin story, you won't be allowed to.

Lin did play well in a way he hasn't in a while, and whether you attribute that to the fact that he was back at the Garden or just facing a defense that took a night off depends on your devotion to narrative. But all told, he was treated well by the Garden faithful, given an ovation upon introduction that was, according to people we follow on Twitter, either "loud" (Alan Hahn), "rousing" (Moke Hamilton), "terrific" (Frank Isola), "polite" (Adrian Wojnarowski), or "nice" (Nate Taylor). (We were at the game and would go with "warm but short.") As the game went on, though, Lin received plenty of boos, likely from those who felt drowned out by the initial rush of affection. There was still a small cheer every time Lin scored, though. (For what it's worth, Toney Douglas was booed unreservedly every time he touched the ball.)

The Lin story of course dominated the night, but now it's over, and Lin goes back to trying to find some chemistry with Harden, and the Knicks go back to reconstructing their defense (and hoping this is just an issue with the Rockets) and bringing back Carmelo Anthony, who's expected to return for Wednesday's game at home against Brooklyn. And there is more news: Amar'e Stoudemire is practicing with the team — he was shooting jumpers at the Garden before the game started last night — and there's a small possibility that he could be back as soon as this weekend. So Lin is leaving town, getting rid of that drama, but don't worry: Another one is about to pop right back up in its place. These are the Knicks, after all.

And there will be no more Lin talk unless the two teams meet in the NBA Finals. Forget we said that.

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Photo: Elsa/Getty Images