NEW YORK — While the Miami Heat have been waiting and watching the Jeremy Lin saga, the Knicks provided a preview worth the hype.
It might not have been unreasonable for the Knicks to be looking ahead to tonight’s meeting with the red-hot Heat in Miami. But instead, they put on display Wednesday the best example of just how good life with Lin could be.
The questions about chemistry and fitting Carmelo Anthony and Lin in the same lineup were answered with an end-to-end assault on the Hawks, as the Knicks out to a 27-point first-half lead and coasted to a 99-82 victory. Lin finished with 17 points and nine assists and Anthony scored 15 points.
So the Knicks didn’t have to wait for the Heat to call, “Next.”
“I think for us, we want to make sure what we’re thinking about is (that) we want to build momentum going into the All-Star break,” Lin said. “It’s a big game. We’re playing a great team and it will be a good evaluation of where we’re at. From that end, we’re excited and ready for the challenge.”
There have been whispers out of Miami that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are waiting on their shot at Lin, looking to shoot down the NBA story that has been hyped beyond their two-year run of hype. Speaking to reporters in Miami they had nothing but good things to say on the record, but the Knicks are aware that the Heat will be looking to prove something.
“He’ll be a marked man,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of Lin. “He should be. He’s competitive. I mean, you know how Kobe (Bryant) plays it and … LeBron and all these guys. They come in here and their eyes light up.
“You have to enjoy being a marked man. That means you did something.”
Lin certainly has been competitive and more, as he has averaged 23.9 points and 9.2 assists over the past 11 games.
If the Heat are waiting for him, so were the Mavericks, who warned Tyson Chandler before Sunday’s game that they had a plan to stop Lin — and he posted 28 points and 14 assists that day. The Nets were waiting for him, too, and though Deron Williams got the better of him Monday in the rematch of the game that started Lin’s run of success, Lin did finish with 21 points and nine assists.
“We’re going down there to win,” said Anthony. “Miami’s playing great basketball right now, one of the hottest teams if not the hottest team in the NBA. It’ll be a great game, a fun game down there. A great experience for Jeremy; his first one.”
So are the Heat — and their fans.
“This game has as much interest as the Finals, believe it or not, as far as media and fans alike,” Heat spokesman Tim Donovan told the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida. “We’re out of seats for media.”
A Bloomberg News report said that the average resale ticket price for the game is $510, more than double the $219 average for the Heat’s other home games this season. The highest-priced ticket for the game was going for $9,400, and the average price has more than doubled since Lin made his first career start Feb. 6.
The Knicks expect the Heat to try to steal the show.
“What they’ll do is, they’re going to defend the heck out of him,” D’Antoni said. “They’ve been doing it to every team in the NBA and winning by 15 points almost every game. … I’m curious to see how Jeremy will adjust to it. But what I’ve seen, everybody’s tried a little different, and he’s doing well.”
Wednesday night was no different. After a sluggish start to the pairing of Lin and Anthony with
Anthony clearly rusty in his first game back Monday, the two gelled. Trailing 16-14 with 4:20 left in the first quarter, the Knicks ran off a 16-0 run to finish the period, The offense was flowing, but it was the defense — with six steals during the run — that turned the game.
Perhaps most important to quiet the critics, Anthony and Lin connected repeatedly for buckets.