Jeremy Lin couldn't have hoped for a better return to Madison Square Garden.
The former Knick who took the world by storm last year logged one of his best games of the season for the Rockets, tallying 22 points and eight assists to help Houston to a 109-96 victory over New York that handed the Knicks their first home loss of the season.
"It was a lot of fun playing out there," said Lin. "I think our team took a step in the right direction. For me, it was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to play on that court again."
James Harden posted a double-double, scoring a team-high 28 points to go with 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who snapped a seven-game road losing streak in ending New York's 12-game unbeaten run at home dating back to last season.
Of the Knicks' six losses this year, two have come to the Rockets in blowout fashion. Without Carmelo Anthony for the second consecutive game, New York was unable to keep up with the scoring pace of the Rockets, who outscored the Knicks 54-29 over the second and third quarters.
Chris Copeland, who started in place of Anthony for the second straight game, notched a career-best 29 points -- all in the second half -- for the Knicks in the setback.
"It's one bright spot," said Copeland on his best professional performance. "But we lost and we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out exactly what we didn't do right."
Lin, who heard a roaring ovation during introductions, was booed constantly throughout the contest.
After becoming an international sensation with his incredible play between early February and mid-March to help the Knicks retain relevancy in the NBA, he left New York for Houston this past offseason after signing a back-loaded offer sheet with the Rockets that the Knicks chose not to match.
The former Harvard graduate started the game well, scoring eight points in the first quarter, but his replacement in New York, Raymond Felton, topped him with 10 points in the period.
However, Felton scored just four more points the rest of the contest and shot a poor 7-of-18 for the game.
J.R. Smith added 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting in the first period to help the Knicks out to 31-29 lead heading into the second quarter, but it all went downhill for New York from there.
The Rockets began the second period strong, as Lin buried a 3-pointer to cap a 10-0 run to put Houston ahead by eight points.
Then, just past the midway point, Lin floated home a layup to put the Rockets ahead by double-digits at 45-34.
New York had a horrid second quarter, managing just 11 points on 4-of-24 shooting. The Rockets dominated offensively from inside in the first half, scoring 34 points in the paint to the Knicks' 16, which helped them take a 56-42 lead into halftime.
Copeland brought the Knicks back to within five with nine straight New York points early in the third, but the Rockets fired back with a 15-0 surge to claim a 20-point advantage with 4:09 left in the quarter.
Lin bookended the run with a pair of layups, but it was a trio of 3-pointers, one from Marcus Morris and two from Harden, that highlighted the push to seal the win for the Rockets.
Houston built its advantage up to 27 points, its largest of the game, at 94-67 in the fourth following back-to-back 3-pointers from Carlos Delfino and Chandler Parsons.
Lin scored a season-best 16 points in the first half ... New York was denied a chance at matching its best start at home since the 1991-92 season, when they began 11-0 ... Delfino knocked down 4-of-7 from three-point range and scored 16 points for the contest ... The Rockets improved to 8-1 in their past nine trips to the Madison Square Garden ... New York's Amare Stoudemire, who has been sidelined with a knee injury all season, has been cleared to practice and will participate in Tuesday's session.