By the end of the game, he was wagging his tongue, blue from sorely needed Gatorade, crop top drenched in sweat. The crowd at Madison Square Garden was as loud as they've been in months, on their feet to cheer him on, suddenly the New York Knicks' brightest and most pleasantly surprising new hope of a point guard. Before the game, he was just Jeremy Lin, preparing to make his first career NBA start coming off a 25-point outburst in his first major contribution just two days earlier.
The arc of an NBA career can change in a minute here, but right now, Lin might as well be wearing football pads the way the New York crowd was cheering him. His fearless attacking style resulted in several trips to the foul line, but his unexpected upper body strength and dexterity help him finish many of the plays anyway. By the fourth quarter, he looked like he was about ready to collapse on the court, but he still had time for one last bit of magic:
It was the pièce de resistance of his incredible masterpiece. The Knicks were playing without Amar'e Stoudemire because of his brother's sudden death and Carmelo Anthony after a first-quarter groin injury against a team with one of the better records in the NBA, the Utah Jazz. It didn't matter. Coupled with Steve Novak's dead-eye shooting (19 points, 5-8 from distance), Lin willed the Knicks to an improbably 99-88 victory with an unbelievable 28-point, eight-assist performance.
The win was a big one — it was only the Knicks' 10th in 25 games —but the excitement about Lin will be the big story moving forward. There is no incumbent for him to replace. Toney Douglas has been dreadful in his time this season, and Iman Shumpert is more comfortable as a shooting guard. Baron Davis still isn't in game shape, so Lin was the last hope, if not the best. His performance, and apparent love of the spotlight of Madison Square Garden, may be enough to put those downtrodden New Yorkers in even higher spirits.
The Jazz were pretty much powerless to stop the force of nature that was Jeremy Lin, but Al Jefferson was terrific on offense, scoring 22 points, as was Gordon Hayward. Paul Millsap dominated the glass with 13 rebounds, but Devin Harris and Earl Watson were routinely toasted defensively, which doomed the Jazz.