Every day, we seem to learn something new about Jeremy Lin. Here’s the latest, a basketball scouting report for the opposition: if Lin has the ball at the top of the key, and the game is on the line, do not, under any circumstances, let him shoot it.
Lin did it again. In Toronto on Tuesday night, with the game tied 87-87, rookie Knicks guard Iman Shumpert missed a pull-up jump shot with a little over 20 seconds left. But Knicks center Tyson Chandler grabbed the offensive rebound and tossed it out to Lin, standing near half-court. The Knicks would take the last shot.
But would Lin pull the trigger? He already had a productive night against the Raptors — 24 points and 11 assists, though he also committed eight turnovers. His driving layup a minute earlier had tied the game.
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So there he is, half-court, with 16 seconds left. Lin, clutching the ball in his left hand, looks over at the Knicks bench for some direction.
Thirteen seconds. Lin waves his right hand at Chandler, who moves back toward the baseline. Lin is clearing space — presumably, so he can drive to the basket.
Ten seconds. A Knicks fan, sitting in the second row, is wildly pointing at Lin. “That guy is going to win it,” you can imagine him screaming at all the Raptors fans surrounding him.
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Six seconds. (Even before Lin exploded onto the NBA scene, Toronto had scheduled Asian Heritage Night for this game against the Knicks.) The packed Air Canada Centre is screaming. Lin takes one dribble with his left hand, another with his right, then puts the ball between his legs. It’s false motion, really: Lin’s playing poker, measuring up the opposing point guard, Toronto’s Jose Calderon. Is he going to come out on me and dare me to drive by him? Or will Calderon really give me this last-second shot?
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Three seconds. Calderon takes a step back. Stupid: with such little time left, if Lin attacks the basket, he’ll only have time to fire up a desperate layup. And the defense can come over to help, because Lin won’t have time to pass it out to an open shooter.
Sensing Calderon’s misstep, Lin sets himself and fires. Lin doesn’t have a pure outside shot, but, man, his ball hangs high in the air, like a lazy fly ball to center field. On this night, that gave the millions of fans caught up in Linsanity plenty of time to think this through. The Knicks had trailed by 17 points in the first quarter and by 12 in the fourth. No [expletive] way he’s going to do this again.
Bang. The ball clips the back of the rim and falls right through. Lin runs down court, chest-bumps with teammate Jared Jeffries. Steve Novak, Landry Fields and all the minds of millions of people captivated by Lin’s amazing run rush over to hug him.
Against the Los Angeles Lakers last Friday night, with the game still tight late, Lin was in a similar situation: alone at the top of the key, against a big guy — Lakers center Pau Gasol. Most guards would try to blow by the tree. But Lin is never frenetic. He deliberates out on the floor, and once you’ve let your guard down, he strikes. He hit that three in Gasol’s face. And yes, he did it again in Toronto.
Knicks 90, Raptors 87. There are still 0.5 seconds left — just enough time for Toronto to put up a desperate heave that falls short. The Knicks have now won six straight games with Lin as their primary playmaker. Lin now has more points — 136 — in his first five starts than any player since the NBA-ABA merger of 1976.
“I don’t know what’s going on in New York right now,” Lin’s teammate Amar’e Stoudemire told a television interviewer after the game ended. While Lin conducted his interview, Fields gave his backcourt buddy a Valentine’s Day kiss on the cheek.
At this rate, the Lin love may last forever.
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