Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
Surreal isn't a strong enough word for what went down at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
It works, but it doesn't quite capture what it felt like to watch the Knicks, playing without Carmelo Anthony (injured groin in first quarter) and Amar'e Stoudemire (with family after the death of his brother), beat the Jazz 99-88 especially when you add in the fact that Tyson Chandler was on the bench for most of the game with foul trouble.
Surreal just can't capture the joyful vision unfurling on the court in this season of great pain as the Knicks won without the players they pay to lead them to wins.
The only word that captures the moment is, of course, Linsanity.
Jeremy Lin, from Harvard by way of Golden State and Houston, made his first NBA start and continued his rapid rise into the hearts of Knicks fans everywhere. He helped the team grab a 13-point halftime lead with seven assists against no turnovers and then made it stand up by getting into the lane consistently for layups, fouls or kicks that became easy shots.
Seeing a guy who knows how to run the pick-and-roll and throw a pass running this offense is a total revelation. When Lin steps in and has two nights like this in a row, one of them with the motliest crew since Motley Crue, you know that there's a great deal of hope still left for this team.
The capper on his 28-point night, a career high that snapped Saturday night's 25 points short reign at the top, was a three off a tapout from Chandler just before the shot clock expired with 1:58 to play. It put the Knicks up nine, all but icing this most improbable of wins that got one final twist when Lin stuck out his tongue to celebrate while giggling his way back down court with blue tongue hanging out of his mouth.
We shouldn't forget about the supporting cast. The Knicks figured to be finished without Anthony, Chandler and Stoudemire but they won because they found a new Big Three in Lin, Jared Jeffries and Steve Novak.
Jeffries gets plenty of guff for being the worst offensive player in all the land, but, in the words of Jay-Z, you can't knock the hustle. Jeffries was all over the place on defense, drawing five offensive fouls and poking the ball away countless times to lead to turnovers that the Knicks turned into easy buckets.
Lin would have probably finished with 14 or 15 assists if Jeffries could finish at even a below average level, but Jeffries kept drawing fouls and wound up with 13 points on the night as a result. He also stepped up as a leader for this ragtag group and then solidified all the good feelings with some pretty passionate postgame comments about what it means for him to be a Knick.
As for Novak, he gave the Knicks the kind of outside shooting they've obviously needed all season. He scored 19 points on threes and their close cousins -- the fake three turned into a long two -- to give an offense desperately in need of points some of them against the Jazz.
Just as an aside, because it really must be mentioned. Someone should ask the Jazz if they are the Utah chapter of the Giants fan club, because it certainly looked like they were out late celebrating the Super Bowl win.
It was a truly remarkable night, mostly because of Lin. He's not an easy player to understand.
He can't go to his left, isn't unusually fast or big, doesn't shoot very well and appeared to be totally exhausted about six minutes into the game. Yes, he works hard and knows how to run an offense but there are plenty of guys who hit those points without having one night half as good as either of the last two turned in by Lin.
There's absolutely nothing about watching him that makes you think he'd successful other than the fact that he actually is successful.
That makes him sort of like Tim Tebow, right down to the bible-heavy postgame interviews, although it is an imperfect and inexact comparison. But if Lin can do for the Knicks even half of what Tebow did for the Broncos, the result is going to be an awfully good one in New York.
Linsanity? Perhaps, but it's hard not to sign up after Monday night.