Sunday, February 19, 2012

Another Lin-credible Victory for Knicks


For the second time since the Jeremy Lin run began two weeks ago, the New York Knicks TKO'd a top NBA opponent. Last week it was the Lakers on a Friday night; this time the victim was the World Champion Dallas Mavericks.

A game that had plenty of build-up thanks to the recent "Linsanity" that has swept the Tri-State area, the confrontation did not disappoint, as Lin, along with newcomer J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, highlighted the Knicks 104-97 victory over Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs. Box score.

The unique match-up of the day was Lin versus Jason Kidd. Kidd, the former New Jersey Net who knows something about turning around basketball teams in the New York/New Jersey market, was pitted against this recent sensation who revitalized the Knicks; hence, the two point guards traded blows and counter blows in controlling the tempo of the game.

It was the Knicks, however, who got out to the fast start, opening up with a 30-18 first quarter lead thanks to a 17-0 run that was keyed by two three pointers by J.R. Smith, who had just gotten off the bus to join the Knicks on Sunday. Lin then added a three pointer of his own to give the Knicks a 12 point advantage.

Soon, NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki made his presence felt. Whether it was underneath the glass, or taking passes from Jason Kidd, Nowitzki slammed home every shot he made in the second and third quarters.

Nowitzki's eight foot jumper to open the second half cut the Knicks lead to one, 48-47. Then, it was Kidd who took over and delivered a huge third quarter. His three pointer in the corner gave Dallas a 54-53 lead. Later, Kidd kicked it out to Nowitzki who connected on a three pointer and a foul to give Dallas a 58-53 lead.

Kidd would get another assist on a Nowitzki three pointer when he found him wide open just outside the arch to increase the Mav's lead to 63-55. Kidd would put an exclamation point on his third quarter performance, connecting on another three pointer, giving Dallas an 11-point advantage.

But the Knicks would find a way to come back, thanks to the fact that Kidd was taken out of the game for a breather, and the Knicks enjoyed a resurgence. Lin's layup with 2:49 to go in the third quarter got things going for New York's stagnant offense. J.R. Smith sank a 25 foot jump shot to cut the deficit to seven before Jared Jeffries hit a three pointer to make it a five point game. On the Dallas in-bound, Lin snuck up and stole the ball from Lamar Odom and took it to the house, making it 75-72.

In the fourth quarter, the game turned into the Steve Novak show. Novak connected on four three pointers, twice giving the Knicks the lead at 77-75 and 81-80, and another one to blow it open at 84-80.  With 7:28 to go, Novak hit his fourth three-pointer to make it 87-81, before Lin sank a three pointer of his own to give the Knicks a 90-81 lead, leaving Madison Square Garden in bedlam. 

The Mavs never got back on the same page. Nowitzki started to miss his shots, and Kidd was rarely used in the fourth quarter, as New York held on to a five point lead while the clock ticked down to the final seconds.

Just an example of how frustrated Nowitzki grew toward the end of the game: he was stripped of the ball by Lin, who threw it up to a wide open Tyson Chandler for the exclamation point, 104-97. What was strange about the play is that after Nowitzki was stripped, the entire Dallas defense stopped and didn't even chase after Chandler! They assumed Lin fouled, but they had assumed wrong, and the Knicks walked off with another mega-upset.

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