“He did a really good job running pick and roll and managing the game,” said the upstaged Wall. “If we stepped out on the shooter, Lin was able to get a layup. I knew he could play basketball and if you are a guard that can run pick and roll in their coach’s offense you have a very good chance to excel.”
Wall and Lin have been linked since the two battled it out in the NBA Summer League two preseasons ago. Wall was the number one overall pick while Lin went undrafted out of Harvard. But on the floor that summer, it was the walk-on Lin that had fans buzzing as he took it to the bigger, faster, stronger Wall. And Lin’s first three starts in the NBA, including Wednesday night’s matchup proved that it was no fluke. Despite coming into Washington and not only dismantling the top pick in his draft class but doing so while the home crowd chanted his name (even some muffled M-V-P chants could be heard—ridiculous—but the point remains the same), Lin remained humble.
“It hasn’t even been a week yet, so I’m not really too worried about that,” said Lin after the game. “I just want to make sure I do what I can to help the team win every time I step out on the floor. I’m not really too worried about proving anything to anybody right now… I wouldn’t have imagined this. At the same time, it’s just a blessing from God and I’m just along for the ride.”
The ride in D.C. started out bumpy for the Knicks as they scored 17 first quarter points on 25% shooting as the Wizards took an early 23-17 point lead. Both teams were abysmal offensively, combining for 30 missed shots in the first quarter.
Wall, who led the Wizards with 29 points on 12 of 21 shooting and six assists came out with a little more intensity than fans have been accustomed to seeing this season. He also came out with a mindset to score; dominating Lin with his size early, but “David” would fire right back in the second quarter, scoring and feeding the rock to his own “Goliath” at the center spot.
“He’s making things easy and the rest of the guys around him are playing the way we want to play,” said head coach Mike D’Antoni. “He controls it—Tyson (Chandler) in the middle and Jeremy (Lin) on the outside. They are doing a heck of a job for us.”
Jeremy Lin of the Knicks gets a layup against Shelvin Mack of the Wizards. New York defeated Washington 107-93 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, February 8, 2012. Alan P. Santos/DC Sports Box
The pace began to pick up with just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter when Lin was allowed to get an in-game run at the layup line as McGee inexplicably allowed the first year guard an uncontested lane to the rim for two of his eight second quarter points. McGee literally just stood there and watched, mesmerized. A few plays later, Wall was in the paint completing the front end of a highly contested 3-point play.
The lane was wide open in the second quarter, much like it was in the first. The only difference this time was that the Knicks were hitting their shots. Nick Novak certainly was, as he scored 12 points in the quarter on four of five from the 3-point line. After only scoring 17 points in the first quarter, New York put up 35 in the second.
The Knicks were in the negative early against the Wizards as they were minus perennial all-stars Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, their two offensive mainstays. New York has struggled all year offensively, but even up until Wednesday the blame had been placed squarely on the shoulders of Anthony, Stoudemire and head coach D’Antoni. Wednesday, with only D’Antoni of the Knicks’ trio of fall guys available, New York found themselves up 52-46 at halftime thanks in large part to Lin’s penetration and kicks to Nick Novak (19 points, five rebounds) and Chandler’s domination of the paint. The Knicks held a six point lead going into the half on 66.7% shooting in the second quarter as the team developed a rhythm that looked much closer to D’Antoni’s successful Suns teams than his current struggling Knicks team.
Wall gave the Wizards their first lead of the second half at 60-58. With 6:45 remaining in the third quarter, the second year point guard streaked from the backcourt to the frontcourt to slam in a highlight dunk on Lin. But the Knicks team effort led by Lin’s 12 third quarter points and Chandler’s 25 points and 10 rebounds was too much for Washington to keep pace with.
The Wizards got as close as 79-72 in the fourth quarter after New York had reestablished the lead but rookie Iman Shumpert’s 11 fourth quarter points, kept them at bay. New York ended the game with five players scoring in double figures while Wall had minimal help from his teammates with Trevor Booker (17 points, seven rebounds) being the only other Wizard to score in double figures.
“The game boiled down to containment,” said Wizards head man Randy Wittman. “We were not able to contain the basketball all night. Whether it was pick and roll or balls kicked out. They were the aggressors who had us on our heels from a defensive standpoint, which led to the fouling.”
If containment is a problem, the Wizards will be in for a long night when the Miami Heat comes into Washington Friday. The Heat is not the team you would want to have containment issues against and if the Wizards fell short against a Knicks team minus two of its all-stars, facing a Miami team that features LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh might rewrite the whole David (from Southeast) v. Goliath (from South beach) story.