Jeremy Lin made the most of his opportunity as a member of the New York Knicks and parlayed the success into a fruitful contract with the Houston Rockets.
"Linsanity" is back in the Empire State Monday night as the talented point guard leads the Rockets into Madison Square Garden for a showdown with the Knicks. New York could have matched the offer for Lin, but had other plans and is not looking back with an 18-5 record -- the best in the Eastern Conference.
New York added guards Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd in the offseason, when Lin packed his bags for Space City with a chip on his shoulder. Lin was a temporary superstar in the Big Apple and even his jersey was a No. 1 seller.
The Knicks enjoyed the ride while it lasted and are currently the only team in the NBA with a perfect record at home (10-0). They barely got by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Saturday's 103-102 victory and held on for the win after Cavs center Anderson Varejao missed a free throw with one second left.
Felton, the new floor general for the Knicks, scored a team-high 25 points and J.R. Smith netted 16 off the bench for New York, which has won four straight overall and nine of 10 games, averaging 104.4 ppg in that span.
It was New York's sixth straight win in games decided by one point.
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony missed the game with a balky ankle and is second in the NBA with 27.9 ppg. Anthony is questionable for Monday's game.
"It was a tough game without Carmelo," said Knicks center Tyson Chandler, who ended with 23 points and 10 rebounds. "We knew we were shorthanded, but we wanted to come in and play hard and continue to protect our house."
Indeed, New York has protected its house to the tune of 10 straight wins, the best start since the 1991-92 squad started 11-0 as the host. The 1989-90 version of the Knicks opened the season 12-0 at MSG.
The Knicks, who are fourth in the league with 103.2 ppg, will also host Brooklyn, Chicago and Minnesota on the residency and have won 12 straight regular season games at home dating back to last season.
Houston hopes to put the brakes on a seven-game road losing streak Monday and hasn't prevailed as the visitor since Nov. 2 at Atlanta. The Rockets fell to 2-7 away from the Toyota Center with Sunday's 103-96 setback at Toronto as James Harden led all scorers with 28 points and Lin added just seven and two assists. Lin is averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 assists this season.
The Rockets made just 7-of-23 3-pointers and shot 41 percent for the game. They're also the worst defensive team in the NBA, yielding 104 ppg.
"We didn't play well enough," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "We had too many mistakes, they made big shots. Defensively, we never looked good."
Marcus Morris scored 19 points for Houston, losers in four of six games overall. Meanwhile, Harden has taken over the spotlight for the Rockets and is fifth in the NBA with 25.0 ppg.
Houston defeated New York at home on Nov. 23 this season in a lopsided 131-103 affair and received a career-high 31 points on 13-of-17 shooting from Chandler Parsons. Harden added 33 points in that one for the Rockets, who have won six in a row and 14 of the past 15 meetings with the Knicks.
The Rockets are 7-1 in the past eight trips to Madison Square Garden.