It's Lin-Mania in the NBA as Jeremy jams Kobe
New York's newest star is an unlikely Harvard grad who is lighting them up
Jeremy Lin outplayed Kobe Bryant, ended the mighty Los Angeles Lakers' dominance of the New York Knicks and then tried to pretend it was just another NBA game.
This was the night that proved he's no one-week wonder, that he's got a real NBA career ahead of him.
After all, Kobe's waiting for revenge next season.
Lin had the most astounding performance of his remarkable week, scoring a career-high 38 points and outplaying Bryant as New York held off the Lakers to win 92-85 on Friday.
Buried deep on the bench a little more than a week ago, Lin led the Knicks to their fourth straight win, tying their longest streak of the season. His two free throws with 52 seconds left amid booming "MVP! MVP!" chants stopped the Lakers' final rally and allowed the undrafted Harvard product to pass Carmelo Anthony for the highest-scoring game by a Knicks player this season.
"I didn't try to see this game as any different," Lin said. "I just try to make sure that when I get there on the floor, I play as hard as I can and try to do everything I can to help the team win.
"The only thing we established tonight is four in a row. Now we try to go for five tomorrow. I'm not too worried about proving anything to anybody. As a team we're growing and trying to build on the momentum."
The Knicks are still without Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. But they have Lin, the point guard that two other teams gave up on in December and didn't get his chance in New York until three other players couldn't do the job.
Bryant finished with 34 points, but he got off to a horrendous start and finished only 11-of-29 from the field. Pau Gasol had 16 points and 10 rebounds, but all-star Andrew Bynum was only 1-of-8 for three points with 13 rebounds as the Lakers' nine-game win streak against the Knicks was snapped.
Four of those wins had come at Madison Square Garden, where fans used to roar for Bryant. They've got a new favourite now, and who could have ever predicted it'd be Lin?
"I think it's a great story," Bryant said. "I think it's a testament to perseverance and hard work. Good example for kids everywhere."
A night earlier, Bryant said he wasn't familiar with Lin's game. Now, he'll awake to headlines everywhere that Lin beat him at the "world's most famous arena."
"Enjoy it," Bryant said. "They'll receive judgment next season."
The most surprising story in the NBA came back into the game with 9:25 left after the Knicks' lead had been trimmed to three. Imam Shumpert hit a jumper and blew by Bryant for a dunk before Lin knocked down a jumper to push the lead to 76-69 with about eight minutes left.
The lead was still eight before Lin nailed a long jumper, then was wide open after an offensive rebound for a three-pointer from the wing, making it 84-71 as fans stood and screamed throughout the Lakers' timeout.
"What he's doing is amazing," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He answered a lot of questions tonight. Can he make an outside shot? Can he pull the trigger in a big moment?
He hit two three-pointers that just broke the game open. There's so much stuff that he's doing."
Lin followed his 28-point, eight-assist outing Monday in his first career start by scoring 23 points and handing out 10 assists Wednesday against Washington, becoming the first player since LeBron James in 2003 and just the sixth since 1970 to have at least 20 points and eight assists in his first two starts, according to research from the Elias Sports Bureau provided by the Knicks.
He became an instant star in New York just as fans were ready to check out basketball after the Giants' Super Bowl run was over, and just when it appeared the Knicks might fall too far behind in the standings to salvage the season.
Some Lin shirts, which sold out of one souvenir stand on the concourse level before the game even started, were scattered throughout Madison Square Garden. Ratings on MSG network are up, partners have added Knicks games to their broadcast schedules so fans can see the league's first American-Taiwanese player.
Already drawing comparisons to NFL quarterback Tim Tebow for his impact on teammates and the way he speaks of his faith afterward, the hype around him will only grow now after beating one of the league's marquee teams in his first nationally televised game.