As soon as Jeremy Lin ’10 stepped back on the court at Madison Square Garden Monday night, the magic was almost immediately back.
In his return to the arena that catapulted him from benchwarmer to celebrity less than a year ago, Lin had 22 points and eight assists to help his Rockets hand the Knicks their first home loss this season.
The 22 points were the second-highest total of the season for Lin, who has struggled thus far this year to adjust to playing with fellow newcomer and ball-dominant guard James Harden. Asked to assess his 2012 season before the game, Lin's response was, "terrible."
But on Monday night, he and Harden meshed together well, with the latter registering 28 points and 10 rebounds to help get the Rockets (12-12) back to .500 with a 109-96 victory.
After receiving a rousing applause from the home crowd—with some even giving him a standing ovation—Lin went to work early, scoring the Rockets’ first points on a layup and hitting four of his first five shots for a total of eight first-quarter points.
"Stay aggressive, be really aggressive—that was my mindset coming in," Lin said. "Have fun and let everything fall where it may."
He hit a three on his first shot attempt of the second period, and had 16 points at the half a week after tying his career-high with 38 points against the Spurs.
Though he missed his subsequent five long ball attempts, Lin went eight of nine from inside the arc, helping the Rockets to their second blowout win over the team that had entered the game with the Eastern Conference’s best record (18-5) but was playing without Carmelo Anthony.
"I just said, 'Tonight, I'm going to be free and fun," Lin said. "I'm going to throw everything else out the window and enjoy the game."
The Rockets also defeated New York, 131-103, in Houston on Nov. 23rd, with Lin chipping in 13 points and seven assists in that game.
Before Monday's contest, the point guard—who entered averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 assists per contest—stated that he would always be thankful for the memories he had of playing in the world’s most famous arena.
“It's definitely something I'll remember forever,” Lin said. “That was the beginning for me.... It'll always have a special place in my heart for sure.”
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reashed at email@example.com.