Rockets romp past Knicks in Lin return
By BRIAN MAHONEY
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK — Jeremy Lin won again at Madison Square Garden — and for the first time this season, the New York Knicks didn’t.
Lin had 22 points and eight assists in his return to New York, leading the Houston Rockets to a 109-96 victory Monday night that ended the Knicks’ 10-game home winning streak to open the season.
Cheered then jeered, and later clobbered, Lin added another masterpiece to the ones he put together last season during the height of Linsanity. No longer the fan favorite he was when wearing the home uniform, Lin got a mixed reception when he left the game with 2:25 remaining and the Rockets leading by 16.
James Harden had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who blew out the Knicks for the second time this season. They have won the last seven meetings, including a 131-103 rout in Houston on Nov. 23.
Rookie Chris Copeland scored a career-high 29 points for the Knicks, who played without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony and had their four-game winning streak snapped. They fell to 18-6, matching the record they finished last season with under Mike Woodson.
Woodson’s team decided not to match Houston’s contract offer to Lin, and nobody could argue when Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni led the Knicks to the best record in the Eastern Conference with a team that led the NBA in fewest turnovers.
But Lin was the best point guard on the floor, just as he so often was during his memorable run last winter, when he went from undrafted benchwarmer to the biggest story in basketball.
The Rockets outscored the Knicks 54-29 over the middle two quarters, denying New York its first 11-0 start at home since the 1991-92 season.
The Knicks trailed by just five midway through the third quarter before the Rockets blew it open with a 15-0 run, with Lin either scoring or assisting on five of their six baskets.
His layup opened the run, and he then found Marcus Morris for a layup and a 3-pointer for a 67-55 Houston lead. Lin assisted on the second of Harden’s consecutive 3-pointers, then had a steal and layup that gave Houston a 75-55 cushion.
Anthony decided Monday to give his sprained left ankle a second straight game to recover. The Knicks did get good injury news when Amare Stoudemire, out all season after left knee surgery, was cleared to practice. He will work out with Erie, the Knicks’ NBA Development League affiliate, when it practices at the Knicks’ training facility today.
The Rockets snapped a seven-game road losing streak, their longest since an eight-game skid in 2001-02.
A sellout crowd that included swimsuit model Kate Upton — who was on one fewer Sports Illustrated covers than Lin last February — gave the Harvard graduate a loud ovation during the introduction of starting lineups. The cheers quickly turned to jeers once the game started, particularly whenever he made a basket. There were boos when Tyson Chandler knocked him to the ground with a shot to the head that resulted in a flagrant foul.
J.R. Smith came off the bench to make all five shots and give the Knicks a 31-29 after one. The Rockets scored the first 10 of the second quarter, opening a 39-31 lead on Lin’s 3-pointer with 9:26 left in the half. Houston scored the final six of the half, turning an eight-point lead into a 56-42 cushion.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Serge Ibaka tied his career best with 25 points and grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds, and Oklahoma City beat San Antonio for its 11th straight win.
The Thunder took control with a string of 11 straight points during the third quarter, punctuated by Nick Collison’s putback that made it 71-56 with 4:27 remaining in the period.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich kept his starters parked on the bench throughout the fourth quarter, even as San Antonio cut an 18-point lead in half with about 5½ minutes left.
Tony Parker and Nando De Colo had 14 points apiece to lead the Spurs, who could have created a virtual tie for the best record with a win.
Manu Ginobili did not play for the Spurs because he bruised his left quadriceps in Saturday’s win at Boston.
Russell Westbrook chipped in 22 points and nine assists, Kevin Martin scored 20 and Kevin Durant had 19 as Oklahoma City maintained sole possession of the best record in the NBA.
It was the teams’ first meeting in Oklahoma City since the Thunder overcame a 2-0 deficit in the Western Conference finals by winning the next four games. The Spurs drew a measure of revenge in the season opener by beating Oklahoma City on Parker’s jumper as time expired.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mike Conley had 17 points, Zach Randolph added 10 points and 15 rebounds, and Memphis overcame a poor start to beat Chicago.
Conley was 6 of 12 from the field and had four assists. Rudy Gay scored 12 points for the Grizzlies but shot 5 of 13, continuing his slump. Wayne Ellington scored all 11 of his points in the second quarter, when the Grizzlies reserves provided a lift after Memphis shot poorly in the first period.
Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while Marco Belinelli finished with 13 points.
Both teams shot just better than 37 percent. But Memphis was 6 of 11 from 3-point range compared to the Bulls hitting only 2 of 11 long-range shots.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Jamal Crawford scored 15 points and Chris Paul added 14 to lead Los Angeles past Detroit for its 10th straight win.
Blake Griffin had 15 points for the Clippers, who had five players in double figures. Griffin had two breakaway dunks in the last 30 seconds, one on a pass banked off the backboard by Crawford.
Brandon Knight led the Pistons with 16 points and Tayshaun Prince added 15. Detroit has lost five straight.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Glen Davis scored 28 points and J.J. Redick had 18 points and seven assists as Orlando beat Minnesota.
The Magic won their third straight and stopped the Timberwolves’ four-game winning streak. Nikola Vucevic had 14 points and 11 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double, and Arron Afflalo scored 13 points.
Kevin Love led Minnesota with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Nikola Pekovic had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who led by 15 in the middle of the third quarter but couldn’t hang on.
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