Lin leads Rockets' rout in return to New York

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Lin leads Rockets' rout in return to New York

NEW YORK (AP) Jeremy Lin will never forget that brief, beautiful stretch of basketball known as Linsanity.

His first trip back to Madison Square Garden was memorable, too.

Lin had 22 points and eight assists in his return to New York, leading the Houston Rockets to a 109-96 victory Monday night that ended the Knicks' 10-game home winning streak to open the season.

The undrafted point guard from Harvard said before the game he would always remember his breakthrough, no matter how long he plays. But he wasn't thinking about it Monday, even as he put together a good imitation of it.

``I've moved on, they've moved on,'' Lin said. ``We have good memories, but at the same time we're all in a different place now.''

Cheered then jeered, and later floored by Tyson Chandler's flagrant foul, Lin added another masterpiece to the ones he compiled last season during the height of his memorable run. No longer the fan favorite he was when wearing the home uniform, Lin got a mixed reception when he left the game with 2:25 remaining and the Rockets leading by 16.

``It was a lot of fun playing out there and I think our team, we took a step in the right direction,'' Lin said. ``And for me, it was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to play on that court again.''

James Harden had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who blew out the Knicks for the second time this season. They have won the last seven meetings, including a 131-103 rout in Houston on Nov. 23.

Rookie Chris Copeland scored a career-high 29 points for the Knicks, who played without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony and had their four-game winning streak snapped. They fell to 18-6, matching the record they had under Mike Woodson after he replaced Mike D'Antoni on March 14 last season.

Woodson's team decided not to match Houston's contract offer to Lin, and nobody could argue when Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni led the Knicks to the best record in the Eastern Conference with a team that led the NBA in fewest turnovers.

But Lin was the best point guard on the floor, just as he so often was during his dazzling run last winter, when the NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent went from undrafted benchwarmer to the biggest story in basketball.

``He had a good game, without a doubt,'' Felton said. ``I never talked junk about Jeremy Lin. Anything I said about Jeremy, I felt like he deserved anything. He deserved everything he got. He had a good game. Plain and simple.''

Felton scored 14 points but shot 7 of 18. Kidd was 2 for 9, and both committed three turnovers.

The Rockets outscored the Knicks 54-29 over the middle two quarters, denying New York its first 11-0 start at home since the 1991-92 season.

The Knicks trailed by just five midway through the third quarter before the Rockets blew it open with a 15-0 run, with Lin either scoring or assisting on five of their six baskets.

His layup opened the run, and he then found Marcus Morris for a layup and a 3-pointer for a 67-55 Houston lead. Lin assisted on the second of Harden's consecutive 3-pointers, then had a steal and layup that gave Houston a 75-55 cushion.

Lin saw some fans wearing his old jersey, but said he didn't let his mind drift back to last season during the game. He doubled his scoring average in what he called an up-and-down season so far.

``I hope this is the start of a nice run for him, because he works really hard,'' Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. ``He's a great kid. He deserves it.''

Anthony decided Monday to give his sprained left ankle a second straight game to recover. The Knicks did get good injury news when Amare Stoudemire, out all season after left knee surgery, was cleared to practice. He will work out with Erie, the Knicks' NBA Development League affiliate, when it practices at the Knicks' training facility on Tuesday.

The Rockets snapped a seven-game road losing streak, their longest since an eight-game skid in 2001-02.

A sellout crowd that included swimsuit model Kate Upton - who was on one fewer Sports Illustrated covers than Lin last February - gave the Harvard graduate a loud ovation during the introduction of starting lineups. The cheers quickly turned to jeers once the game started, particularly when he made a basket. There were boos when Chandler knocked him to the ground with a shot to the head that resulted in a flagrant foul.

``He hit me hard, but I still kept coming though,'' Lin said.

Chandler felt it was a clean, hard foul that didn't warrant a flagrant. He and Lin hugged after the game.

``He had a good game,'' Chandler said. ``He had a good game the other night. He's a good player. He's going to have some nights, but I thought we could have took away a lot of his easy baskets, him and James Harden.''

J.R. Smith came off the bench to make all five shots and give the Knicks a 31-29 after one. The Rockets scored the first 10 of the second quarter, opening a 39-31 lead on Lin's 3-pointer with 9:26 left in the half. Houston scored the final six of the half, turning an eight-point lead into a 56-42 cushion.

NOTES: Stoudemire is working out with the D-League team because the Knicks are not expected to do much running at practice Tuesday. They haven't held a formal practice since Dec. 4. ``It seems strange but we have a stretch right now where we're playing every other day and it's hard to play a game and then think you can come in and drill these guys,'' Woodson said. ``I like to practice, that's where I feel like you learn a lot and stay sharp in terms of your defensive rotations, but I can't run them in practice and expect them to come back and play the next day and then practice again. There's just too many games coming at us right now.''

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Morning tip: Fast starts key to winning trip for Wizards starting vs. Lakers, ending vs. Warriors

Morning tip: Fast starts key to winning trip for Wizards starting vs. Lakers, ending vs. Warriors

LOS ANGELES -- The natural progression after a team such as the Wizards upsets the defending NBA champions on the first game of a five-game road trip and then play the lowly L.A. Lakers is to discuss the possibility of a letdown. Coach Scott Brooks hopes his insistence that all 82 games of the regular season schedule represent equal importance gets through.

The Wizards (45-28) are trying to hold off the No. 4 Toronto Raptors, who are just one game back of the No. 3 seed and have won the season series with Washington 2-1 to give them the tiebreaker should both end with the same record. 

"I talk to the guys all the time is our job is 82 games. We got to focus, give ourselves the best chance to win by locking in on what we do. Any team can beat you in this league," Brooks said. "Theyr'e still pros. They still put points on the board."

In a 127-115 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, the Wizards dropped 40 first-quarter points. John Wall was 8-for-8 with 18 of his game-high 37 points. 

With the second game of back-to-back on Wednesday vs. the L.A. Clippers, also at Staples Center, getting the Lakers put away early so the starters can recharge quicker.

“When we play with great energy in that first quarter we get a chance to win," Brooks said. "When we just don’t play at the pace we need to play at then the game seems like it takes forever. We have speed and athleticism and shooting. We want to be able to utilize that from the opening tip.”

The Lakers (21-52) have lost 15 of their last 17 games and don't look much like the team the Wizards beat 116-108 on Feb. 2 at Verizon Center.

They're playing for better draft lottery odds and have rested key veterans such as Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for the rest of the season.

The Wizards went 4-1 in their last five-game road trip, and if they can match that success they'll be in a good position to finish strong and reach the 50-win mark for the first time in four decades.

[RELATED: Wizards are on cusp of breaking longest division-winning drought in U.S. sports]

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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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