Heat catches Knick sensation off guard
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Knicks guard Jeremy Lin (l.) is harrassed into eight turnovers by the Miami Heat Thursday night.
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Was the loss to Miami the begining of the end of Linsanity?
Yes, he clearly can't compete with teams like Miami
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This was not a great sign, but the sample size it still too small
MIAMI — Linsanity wasn’t going to go on forever.
The best team in the NBA stopped all the Jeremy Lin talk, at least for one night, in a command performance that was as good as the Knicks’ sensation is ever going see.
“I can’t remember another game when it was just hard to take dribbles,” Lin said Thursday night after his nightmare outing in the Knicks’ 102-88 defeat to the Miami Heat. “It was a learning experience.”
Lesson No. 1: Don’t go up against LeBron James and Co. when you’re coming in off a game the night before, you have to travel down here, and when the Heat is rested and ready to stop the Linsanity.
Afterward, Lin talked about the Heat’s superior speed and athleticism. The Heat certainly can take credit for being “ Lin Stoppers ,” just as much as the Pistons once were able to slow down Michael Jordan with their “Jordan Rules.’’ Not to compare Lin to Michael Jordan, silly as that notion is. The truth is, the Heat didn’t even use any special defenses to stop Lin from continuing to play as if he’s Steve Nash ’s twin.
“I wish I could tell you that we developed a master plan,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra , after his team held Lin to one basket and three assists and forced him into eight turnovers in 35 dreadful minutes. “I know that’s the storyline everybody wants. But we did what we do against speed playmakers.”
Sometimes, it works. But just two weeks ago, as Spoelstra was quick to point out, the very same defensive strategy had gotten the Heat burned to the tune of 17 three-pointers in a 13-point loss to the Magic.
“We treated him with respect,” Spoelstra said after his team’s eighth straight win, “like an impactful point guard.”
That’s pretty good for the Knicks, when you think about what they had at point guard for so many weeks of this season before they lucked out finding Lin. As Dwyane Wade aptly put it, “the tooth fairy put that under the pillow.’’
Thursday night, there was no fairy tale. Just a reality check for a young, rising playmaker. The Heat made Lin look exactly like what he is: an undrafted kid out of Harvard who is still learning the ropes.
The Knicks were up against it here. They won at the Garden against the Hawks one night earlier, and that already tilted the court in the Heat’s direction when the Knicks had to come down here. To contend with this Miami defense, you’ve got to have fresh legs or at least be playing on equal schedule terms.
“We’re a no-excuse team,” Lin said. “So fatigue didn’t matter.”
What mattered was the opponent. These aren’t the Lakers or the Mavs, whom Lin easily solved in the comfort of the Garden.
The Heat wouldn’t let Lin command the center of the court, as Miami often does to get teams out of their offense. They forced him to the sides. They made him go to his left, his weaker hand. They doubled him and didn’t leave open teammates as the Knicks sputtered in the second half with 41 points on just 33% shooting.
“They did a great job of making me uncomfortable,’’ Lin said.
Twice he had his pocket picked by the Heat’s two point guards, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole , for back-breaking breakaway dunks. When the Heat slowly pulled away in the third quarter, he got pinned on the baseline, forced a bad shot and had it rejected by Joel Anthony .
Lin never had it, all game long. Once, he got to the hoop and got the benefit of a call against James. That made Heat president Pat Riley jump out of his seat and wave his arms to protest the call against his superstar. But otherwise, the Heat owned Lin, and the Knicks were destined for their third loss in 11 games with him in their starting lineup.
“He can’t be Peter Pan every night,” Mike D’Antoni said. “They have one of the best pick-and-roll defenses in the league, and the first game you see it, its speed is overwhelming. But he’ll be attacking next Wednesday.’’
When the Knicks resume their season that night following the All-Star break, Lin won’t be facing a better defense than the one that came out amped up and ready to take him out Thursday. It’ll only be Cleveland’s defense.
After his worst game as a Knick, Lin talked about going up to Orlando to compete in Friday’s All-Star weekend game for the top first- and second-year players. Then he hopes to go off to the beach or maybe a fishing trip.
“Some place where there is no cell-phone reception,” he said.
After experiencing the Heat for the first time, he can use the R and R.
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