Jeremy Lin put aside his record-setting scoring to hand out a career-best 13 assists, and the New York Knicks got back to .500 with their seventh straight victory, 100-85 over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
Lin added 10 points, focusing more on his role as a distributor while others torched the Kings for 51 percent shooting. Landry Fields had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Bill Walker and Steve Novak each chipped in 14 points.
Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts, most by any NBA player since the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976. His 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left Tuesday allowed the Knicks to pull out a 90-87 victory in a game they trailed nearly the whole way.
The Knicks (15-15) led this one almost throughout, evening their record for the first time since they were 6-6 after a loss to Oklahoma City on Jan. 14. They host hapless New Orleans on Friday, hoping All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony will return from a strained right groin.
The way Lin’s Knicks are playing, they can wait for him.
The reigning Eastern Conference player of the week played 26 minutes, grabbing a seat next to Anthony — and sharing a few laughs with the star forward — after checking out for good late in the third quarter.
Tyreke Evans scored 19 points for the Kings, who had won four in a row in New York. DeMarcus Cousins added 15 but shot only 7 of 18 and grabbed just four rebounds.
Already the NBA’s biggest story, Linsanity had peaked about 24 hours earlier with the former Harvard guard’s winner in Toronto. The shot was replayed on the overhead video board, triggering a huge ovation as if it had just happened live.
But Lin would have few other scoring highlights, taking only six shots.
Fans, quite a few wearing Lin’s jerseys or holding masks of his face, loved it anyway. They chanted “MVP! MVP!” as he was interviewed on the court after the game and held up signs such as ‘Lin Your Face,’ ‘Linderella,’ and — of course — ‘Marry Me Jeremy.’
“It’s crazy. Thank you for the energy as always,” he said to the crowd.
Lin played last season in Golden State for Kings coach Keith Smart, who praised Lin’s work ethic and attitude, but never imagined “the perfect storm” that would lead to these results.
“It’s good Monday morning quarterbacks are here now, but no one could have predicted this guy being this big in this place here,” Smart said.
Lin opened the game with a three-point play, giving him nine straight points dating to late Tuesday, but passed more than shot as the Knicks scored easily in the first half. Lin beat the defense with penetration and dishes to shooters, or by throwing lob passes over the top.
The Knicks led 25-17 after one quarter, then blew it open late in the second. Novak converted a four-point play, Lin hooked up with Fields for an alley-oop dunk, then made a free throw to cap a run of seven straight points and make it an 18-point game. The Knicks closed the scoring when Lin drove and threw a wraparound pass to Tyson Chandler for a dunk with 1.7 seconds left, extending it to 54-36.
Lin had six points and nine assists in the first half. He found Fields for a layup that made it a 25-point game early in the third, and the Knicks coasted from there.