Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jeremy hits first NBA gamewinner!

In another chapter of the surreal Jeremy Lin saga, he hit his first NBA gamewinner last night - a 3 pointer with 0.5 seconds left - to continue the Knicks' 6 game winning streak since he's began playing major minutes on Feb 4th.  He finished with 27 points and 11 assists, the second double-double of his career.

With Steve Nash comparisons inevitably flying around, the fact is that Jeremy's been much more of a scorer, posting the most points (136) by a player in his first 5 starts since the NBA merger in '75.  Though it is also true that most on the list, like Shaq (129), were playing their first 5 NBA games (not just starts), it is still an absolutely ridiculous and unexpected statistic for Jeremy.  Even had he been born African American and was a first round pick out of UCLA, it still would've been an incredible accomplishment, much less a Chinese American who was undrafted out of Harvard.

The other comparison is of course Tim Tebow, but we all know that the controversy surrounding Tebow is that he doesn't put up the requisite numbers (namely completion percentage) to be considered a bonafide starter.  Jeremy has been an allstar NBA player for 6 games by any measure and by any definition.  He's scored 25, 28, 23, 38, 20 and now 27 points during this winning streak.  Assists?  7, 8, 10, 7, 8, 11.  (Hmm, I'm going to guess he gets 7 assists tonight.)  Shooting percentage?  59/117, 50.4%.  And now, he's got his clutch Tebow moment.

Jeremy scored 12 of his 27 points in the 4th quarter, in which the Knicks started down 9 points.  With 1 minute left and now down 3, Jeremy drove it in, got fouled and completed the 3 point play.  Tie game.  Next possession, after a Chandler offensive rebound, Jeremy called for an iso, dribbled out the clock, noticed Calderon playing too far off, and drilled the 3 from straight away.  Clutch.  It was an enrapturous sports moment.

Had Jeremy not hit that 3, he would've been lambasted for being badly outplayed by Calderon, who got the bulk of his own 25 points against Jeremy early on.  But with the 3 pointer, all is forgiven - and Jeremy even finished with 2 more points than Calderon.

By the way, he's also got 30 turnovers in his first 5 starts, also an NBA record.  But hey, when D'Antoni puts the ball in your hands all game and asks you to make it happen just about every single possession, turnovers will happen too.  He also missed way too many FTs down the stretch.  But, W's are all that matter.

Calipari made a couple good points on the Dan Patrick show this morning.  He said Jeremy was absolutely ready when the unexpected opportunity arose.  After a disheartening rookie year at Golden State where he probably felt more like a mascot than player, Jeremy went to work in the offseason and clearly got better.  So even when he was cut twice by two teams and sent to the NBDL to start this season, when D'Antoni gave him a real chance, he blew the doors off the joint.

Secondly, Calipari commented that had Jeremy not played for D'Antoni, where endless pick-and-rolls are encouraged, we might not ever know how good Jeremy really is.  So not only was he ready, he was positioned in the perfect place for this kind of success.  The offense, the teammates, the city, the timing - it's all been absolutely perfect for him.

Obviously things will change when Carmelo comes back.  Melo will need to be the top scorer, take the most shots and be the focal point of the offense.  Jeremy won't be attempting the game-winners anymore.  But who can predict what happens next these days?  We're just enjoying Linsanity while it lasts.

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