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Basketball Knicks 90, Raptors 87

Raptors can’t conjure a cure for Linsanity Add to ...

Let the game’s tall foreheads figure out how Carmelo Anthony is going to fit in with Jeremy Lin on the New York Knicks. The rest of us are just going to enjoy this ride. We’re going to suspend our cynicism, much like that game-winning three-pointer hung in the air Tuesday night.

Do you believe the Toronto? Four missed free throws in the fourth quarter. Eight turnovers and still he made the clutch shot, with Lin:Lin-Lin left in regulation time. Lin earned the right to win that game with a ballsy drive to the hoop to make the score 87-86 then tie it with a free-throw. He was mugged on the way to the hoop. Crushed.

It’s one thing to play in the pretty areas and collect your points but that is not Jeremy Lin. He is tough. He is street, for a Knicks team and a city that knows a point guard – and all you had to do was watch the Knicks on the bench as he hopped toward them after his shot. A little smug. A little cocky.

This is the city that booed Bobby Orr, so it’s no surprise that early in the second quarter, after he’d been nearly run off the court in the first quarter by his Raptors counterpart Jose Calderon, Lin started to hear boos every time he touched the ball. It was a strange twist, since Lin was greeted by an almost explosive ovation when the starting lineups were introduced. It really did seem as though the signs that read Val-Lin’s-Tine Day were indeed true.

But I swear it seemed like they were all cheering at the end. Every last 20,092 of them at the Air Canada Centre. Linsanity? Shoot – sign me up.

With (Little) Steven Van Zandt of E Street Band fame looking on from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. chairman Larry Tanenbaum’s left, Calderon responded with 12 first-quarter points, his biggest quarter since Jan. 15, 2010. Lin had nine points in the first half and five of the Knicks 11 turnovers – even Anthony Carter picked his pocket – but became more engaged in the third, but he showed a flash of anger with two minutes left when the Knicks were sloppy in transition defence, allowing DeMar DeRozan a clear path to the hoop. Lin’s brow was furrowed and he yelled as he slammed the ball toward the official when the Knicks called a time out.

Then he took over.

Go ahead. You doubt him. It is true that it will take work for Lin and Anthony to co-exist when Anthony returns from a strained groin injury but that’s why the basketball gods created coaches. That will be the real test (Amar’e Stoudemire was back Tuesday, but his experience with Steve Nash in Phoenix would seem to suggest he’ll make a seamless transition to Linsanity) as will Stoudemire and Anthony work alongside Chandler.

My guess is that’s the thing to worry about if you’re the Knicks. Lin? He’ll be fine.

The Raptors worked out Lin on two occasions before the draft. Lin was waived twice this season, but on each occasion the Raptors had 15 players – including three point guards – on their roster.

The Raptors were impressed with Lin’s toughness and head coach Dwane Casey spoke positively about his poise and athleticism when he coached Lin with the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League team. “That 1-on-1 play is real,” Casey reiterated before the game.

Casey is a smart man.

Lin has had an impact on the Knicks’ bottom line, according to Mark Ozanian, executive editor of Forbes.com. Television ratings have gone up 66 per cent over last season – and that’s particularly important since the MSG Network and Time-Warner Cable are involved in a dispute over MSG’s demand for a 53-per-cent increase in fees. While Ozanian believes the value of an Asian-American star is self-explanatory, he isn’t certain the NBA head office will develop a marketing plan around him.

“I don’t know if it has to, with social media the way it is now,” he said, noting that on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, Lin was a trending topic. He likely is this morning, too.

“He’s a marked man,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said afterward. Of course he is: he’s the point guard for the New York Knicks. Sounds about right, no?

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