Plenty to learn for Lin
Former Harvard star struggles in return
Jeremy Lin developed his game at Harvard, but his best performances as a professional have come far from Boston. In two games against the Celtics, the Knicks guard has displayed only flashes of the player who has averaged 14.6 points and six assists in 23 games with New York.
Lin had 14 points and five assists, but also committed six turnovers and missed six shots in overtime in the Knicks’ 115-111 overtime loss to the Celtics Sunday. But that was an improvement on Lin’s 2-point performance in a 91-89 defeat against the Celtics last month.
After that Feb. 3 game at TD Garden, Lin went on a hot streak, scoring 20 or more points in nine of 10 games. Lin since has slowed down, but he still has produced double-figure scoring in every game except for an 8-point, 1-for-11 shooting performance against Miami.
“The thing about Jeremy is he’s going to make some mistakes,’’ Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s got a learning curve. There’s no way you can throw him in there first time and expect it to be perfect. But he finds a way to be very positive in the end of the games - hit the big three and a couple of other shots. It was good and he’s going to be good. Just a matter of going through some learning experiences. But I thought overall he was good.’’
Lin appeared to be struggling mightily against Rajon Rondo’s quickness for most of the game. After three minutes, Lin had committed two fouls, and he was replaced by Baron Davis. But in the final minutes of regulation time, Lin produced - he scored 6 points in a 77-second span, preventing the Celtics from pulling away.
Lin’s 3-pointer cut the Knicks’ deficit to 96-95 with 2:07 to go, and that would be the last New York field goal in regulation by anyone other than Carmelo Anthony.
Overtime did not go well for Lin. His first shot was blocked by Brandon Bass, and his only basket in seven shots was a fadeaway that cut the deficit to 112-109 with 1:43 remaining.
“They did a good job controlling the paint, for sure,’’ Lin said. “They sent a lot of bodies and they had me take a lot of tough shots. I didn’t get a lot of easy stuff. But, still, in my opinion, I should have finished a lot of those shots. So, hopefully next time we play them I’ll be able to hit the same shots.’’
And Lin likely will be in position to take those attempts. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he was more concerned with the threats of Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
“There was no game plan,’’ Rivers said of defending Lin. “We just wanted to put pressure on him, take him off his right hand, which I thought we allowed him to get to his right late in the game. That’s one of my points of contention of late. But that was it.
“They’re a whole team. You know, Jeremy Lin is terrific, makes tough shots. But Carmelo’s pretty good and Amar’e is pretty good, and J.R. Smith. So we were probably more focused on that, if you want me to be honest. I thought the defensive pressure was good. I mean, Rondo was up in him and Avery [Bradley]. That’s what we should do every night and it was great to see.’’
This was Lin’s first extended matchup against Rondo, who had 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 20 assists.
“He’s just unconventional,’’ Lin said of Rondo. “He’s one of the best in the league and so you saw his stat line. There aren’t many guards, maybe no guards, who can put up something like that. We didn’t do a good job of containing him and he obviously controlled the tempo of the game.
“The difference, I think, I was a little more comfortable, but still not where I want to get to. Obviously, Boston is a very good defensive team and, hopefully, as I play them a couple more times I’ll get more comfortable.’’
Lin might have been taking opponents by surprise before the All-Star break. Not now, though.
“When you become a good player your scouting report’s out,’’ Stoudemire said. “That’s something that Carmelo and I faced our whole career. So, that’s something that he’s going to have to get used to.
“But we are going to help him out. We are going to get him open on screens. Try to apply pressure and try to get out on screens when they try to trap him, create havoc. But, having such a real talented team around him, he’s going to be OK.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.