NEW YORK (AP)—Instead of saving the Knicks, Jeremy Lin got to save his energy.
Lin played only 26 minutes Wednesday night, 10 fewer than in any game since joining the rotation. With the Knicks blowing out the Sacramento Kings, he checked out for good in the third quarter, grabbing a spot on the bench next to Carmelo Anthony and sharing a laugh with the injured All-Star.
“We were just having fun and kind of talking about how we’re both excited for when he comes back,” Lin said.
Hey `Melo, no need to rush. Lin and the Knicks just keep on winning.
Lin put aside his record-setting scoring to hand out a career-best 13 assists, and New York got back to .500 with its seventh straight victory, 100-85 on Wednesday night.
Lin added 10 points, focusing more on his role as a distributor while others torched the Kings for 51 percent shooting. Landry Fields had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Bill Walker and Steve Novak each chipped in 14 points as the Knicks put seven players in double figures for the first time since April 5, 2009, at Toronto.
“As a point guard, my field goal attempts have been really high and I don’t think that’s necessarily good,” Lin said. “I think it’s more of my job to distribute and get people in rhythm.”
Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts, most by any NBA player since the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976. His 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left Tuesday allowed the Knicks to pull out a 90-87 victory in a game they trailed nearly the whole way.
The Knicks (15-15) led this one almost throughout, evening their record for the first time since they were 6-6 after a loss to Oklahoma City on Jan. 14. They host hapless New Orleans on Friday, hoping Anthony will return from a strained right groin.
“We wanted to be aggressive, make it hard for (Lin), but he still ran the team and got assists,” Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans said. “They made shots. It seemed like they were making everything tonight.”
Evans scored 19 points for the Kings, who had won four in a row in New York. DeMarcus Cousins added 15 but shot only 7 of 18 and grabbed just four rebounds.
Already the NBA’s biggest story, Linsanity had peaked about 24 hours earlier with the former Harvard guard’s winner in Toronto. The shot was replayed on the overhead video board at the Garden, triggering a huge ovation as if it had just happened live.
But Lin, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, would have few other scoring highlights, taking only six shots.
Fans, quite a few wearing Lin’s jerseys or holding masks of his face, loved it anyway. They chanted “MVP! MVP!” as he was interviewed on the court after the game and held up signs such as “Lin Your Face,” “Linderella,” and—of course—“Marry Me Jeremy.”
“It’s crazy. Thank you for the energy as always,” he said to the crowd.
Then he was peppered with an array of questions usually reserved for superstars, from his thoughts about President Barack Obama watching him, to whether it was time to get a new haircut.
But for Lin, the only focus is basketball.
“I knew him before he was Linmania. He’s still the same humble guy,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “The guy has not changed a bit, which is real special for a young man.”
Lin played last season in Golden State for Smart, who praised Lin’s work ethic and attitude, but never imagined “the perfect storm” that would lead to these results.
“It’s good Monday morning quarterbacks are here now, but no one could have predicted this guy being this big in this place here,” Smart said before the game.
Lin opened the game with a three-point play, giving him nine straight points dating to late Tuesday, but passed more than shot as the Knicks scored easily in the first half. Lin beat the defense with penetration and dishes to shooters, or by throwing lob passes over the top.
The Knicks led 25-17 after one quarter, then blew it open late in the second. Novak converted a four-point play, Lin hooked up with Fields for an alley-oop dunk, then made a free throw to cap a run of seven straight points and make it an 18-point game. The Knicks closed the scoring when Lin drove and threw a wraparound pass to Tyson Chandler for a dunk with 1.7 seconds left, extending it to 54-36.
“I just thought we played really exceptionally well the first quarter,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Just the ball was moving, every time we drew up a play they ran it perfectly. Every time I think there was an opportunity to make a great pass, they did it.”
Lin had six points and nine assists in the first half. He found Fields for a layup that made it a 25-point game early in the third, and the Knicks coasted from there.
Notes: Kings rookie guard Isaiah Thomas was booed when his name was announced after checking in late in the first quarter. The names are pronounced the same, but he’s not related to former Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas. “I knew it was going to happen here,” Thomas said. “I was expecting something. Spike Lee told me next time you come to New York, you better change your name.” … The Knicks last won seven in a row near the end of last season. … Former vice president Al Gore and ex-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson were at the game.