Jeremy Lin and the team he’s put on his back for the past two weeks, the New York Knicks, stroll into South Beach Thursday night for a monumental clash of the team with the guy everybody suddenly hated vs. the team with the guy everybody suddenly loved.
That’s looking at this game from a perspective focusing on personalities, which, of course, is partly why this match-up is such a big deal. As it should; it’s only natural. But don’t forget this is a match-up of one of the best teams all season against one of the best teams in the last two weeks. This Lin fella will be tested like he hasn’t been tested before.
For much of the duration of the Lin phenomenon, the Knicks have had a schedule comparable to Boise State’s in football. We’ve all heard this. It was a major point of emphasis for Lin’s biggest detractors. In the 11 games since Lin became part of the rotation, the only teams the Knicks faced currently in a playoff position were the Lakers, Mavs and Hawks. Of those three, the Mavs are the only team that has a defensive stopper capable of slowing down Lin in Shawn Marion.
With the Heat, Lin encounters one of the best defensive teams in the entire league. Already, LeBron knows he is going to be one of those asked to pressure Lin.
“I know I’m going to end up guarding Lin at some point,” LeBron told reporters Wednesday.
Oh, baby. Will that be something to behold.
When it’s not going to be James, then it will probably be Dwyane Wade, another tough defender. That is quite the challenge Lin will face Thursday. It’s his Apollo Creed fight.
The Heat are third in the league in forcing turnovers. And when they get them, they’ll push up the court at a breakneck tempo, scoring as fast as, if not faster than, the Oregon Ducks do on Saturdays in the fall (it should be no surprise Heat coach Erik Spoelstra solicited Ducks coach Chip Kelly for pointers before the season). I mean, need we look further than this from the other night? And here’s the thing, Lin already has been giving up a lot of turnovers. UH-OH!
Against Marion, who was supposed to force him into a disLinchanting game last Sunday, Lin did all right. Just 28 points and 14 assists. Another chill day for a dude who crashes on people’s couches. (On a serious note, he still did have seven turnovers.)
I hate saying nothing is impossible for Lin because such a saying is so trite for anybody. But he’s making it hard not to. So maybe there’s still a chance Lin can once again defy the odds and push the Knicks above .500 heading into the all-star break, a mark that, given what the team was on pace for before Lin did batshit crazy things, would be impressive.
If not, blame Carmelo?
[Photo by Keith Allison]