NEW YORK – Jeremy Lin knows everybody credited him for the Knicks' seven straight wins, so he takes the blame for their one-game losing streak.
With famous fan Spike Lee donning Lin's high school jersey in the latest bout of Linsanity, New York's point guard sensation committed nine turnovers, tied for the most in the NBA this season, in an 89-85 loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night.
Lin scored 26 points, but his turnovers nearly doubled his five assists, and the Knicks lost for the first time with Lin as a starter, falling back below .500 at 15-16 heading into a matchup with the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
"Just a lackluster effort on my part coming out and careless with the ball, and so nine turnovers is obviously never going to get it done from your primary ballhandler," Lin said. "It's on me in terms of taking care of the ball and also the game in general."
Trevor Ariza scored 25 points for the Hornets, who have won three in a row after a 4-23 start. Marco Belinelli added 17.
Amare Stoudemire had 26 points and 12 rebounds for New York.
Before the game, one fan spotted a guy in a Palo Alto High jersey and asked, "Are you Lin's high school coach?"
The green No. 20 in fact belonged to a fellow former Palo Alto player, who was tasked with transporting Lin's old No. 4 jersey cross-country so it could be worn by Lee. The latest twist in the Lin saga started earlier this week when his high school coach in California, Peter Diepenbrock, said in an interview with a New York radio station that he hoped to put a Vikings jersey on the director's back. Turns out Lee heard about it and had a representative contact Diepenbrock about making it happen.
Diepenbrock isn't scheduled to make it to a Knicks game until Sunday, but another of his former players, Chris Bobel, was planning to get to New York on Friday and delivered the jersey to Lee's rep.
The Knicks were playing for the sixth straight game without injured All-Star Carmelo Anthony and missed 20 of their 24 3-point attempts. They were only 19 of 29 on free throws and were flat early, quieting a crowd that has been buzzing since Lin joined the rotation.
"We got the same shots we've been getting," Tyson Chandler said. "They just didn't fall."
Down by 12 early in the fourth, the Knicks made a run with Lin on the bench and cut it to 73-71 when Jared Jeffries hit a free throw after Lin returned during a timeout with 5:29 left.
The Knicks got it down to two again on Lin's free throws with 1:06 to play. But Gustavo Ayon answered with a bucket, Lin missed wildly on a drive to the basket, and when Belinelli's free throws with 25 seconds left made it 87-82, fans began heading for the exits, perhaps in search of Lin-burgers, "Lings" — Asian-spiced chicken wings — or "Lintinis," Lin-spired items that have begun popping up at bars around the city.
"It's the NBA, man. I mean, the kid is really good. I love his passion. What I love about him is he is so humble. He deserves everything he got right now and everything he is going through because, you know, the way he handles himself," Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez said. "But tonight it was a little bit different. We came out and played great team defense."
Thus ended a remarkable run by the Knicks, who were 8-15 when coach Mike D'Antoni finally turned to Lin, the undrafted point guard from Harvard who was perhaps days from being cut for the third time this season when he got this sputtering team on track.
They only figure to get stronger in the coming days. Anthony worked out before the game and is close to returning, and the Knicks signed his former Denver teammate, J.R. Smith, on Friday. Smith is eligible to return to the NBA after his Chinese team's season ended, and the Knicks believe he will strengthen their poor 3-point shooting, which cost them Friday.
"They're long and they did defend well," D'Antoni said of the Hornets. "But at the same time, I was telling (Lin) he's trying to make the hardest pass out there; he's trying to make the home run pass. That will happen for young guys. When they collapse so much, he has to kick. At the same time, we weren't making any outside shots, so they weren't coming out.
"He'll learn. He'll get through it. I thought he played well. Second half, he adjusted."
The poor performance came just as many New York residents finally got to see Lin for the first time. Fueled largely by the Asian-American's popularity, MSG network and Time Warner reached a tentative deal Friday that puts Knicks games back on TV for some 2 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in the New York area. New York state officials and the NBA had pressured the companies to settle a dispute that began Jan. 1.
Lee, who usually sports Landry Fields' No. 2, wore the dark green No. 4 over a neon green long sleeve shirt, clashing horribly with the Hornets' green and purple Mardi Gras uniforms.
But the ugliest thing at the start was the Knicks' offense. Lin's five turnovers in the first quarter matched their number of baskets.
"We had a few lulls in the second and a little bit in the fourth. But when you play that kind of defense, to hold that team to 13 points in the first quarter and 19 in the third, you set yourself up to have a chance," Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
Lin has been turnover prone — committing at least six in five straight games — and it finally came back to cost the Knicks this time.
"It takes a few games like this in order to learn from the mistakes," Stoudemire said. "It's a learning curve for him right now. He's going to watch film, I'm sure, and get better."
Notes: NBAstore.com has shipped Lin merchandise to 23 countries since Feb. 4, with Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia ranking only behind the United States and Canada in largest shipments. ... The Knicks had won the previous six meetings. Their longest current winning streak against an opponent is eight straight wins over Washington. ... The Knicks paid tribute to former Mets catcher Gary Carter, who died Thursday, during a first-quarter timeout.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.