NEW YORK -- The man who sparked so much noise at Madison Square Garden last year helped make it quiet Monday night, as the Houston Rockets handed the New York Knicks their first home loss of the season.
Jeremy Lin returned to the place where he became a national sensation and displayed the talent he showed back then, pairing with James Harden to lift the Rockets to a 109-96 win.
Lin finished with 22 points and eight assists. Harden added 28 points and 10 rebounds.
New York, which was without injured forwards Carmelo Anthony and Rasheed Wallace, was led by Chris Copeland, who scored 29 points while starting for Anthony. Tyson Chandler had 18 rebounds and eight points for New York, and J.R. Smith scored 17 points.
Lin received a loud reaction from the fans at the Garden, who helped turn him into a folk hero during his fantasy-like stretch last season. While some fans booed, most cheered, welcoming back the man who created the firestorm known as "Linsanity" when he burst out of obscurity to pile up points against some of the NBA's best teams.
The budding bond between the Knicks and Lin abruptly ended in the offseason, when he bolted for Houston. The Rockets made him a three-year, $25 million offer, Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly felt "betrayed," and the Knicks opted to acquire point guard Raymond Felton instead, leaving Lin to sign with Houston.
The moves have worked out just fine for the Knicks this season -- except when they've played Lin's Rockets, who now own a pair of lopsided victories against them. Felton (14 points, four assists Monday) has played well at the point along with veteran Jason Kidd, and the Knicks are off to a 18-6 start.
"We wanted Jeremy back, I made that public back in the summer," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "But things changed from a business standpoint. He took the Houston offer. He had a right to do that, and as an organization, we were able to move on.
"That's no knock against Jeremy. He did what he had to do, making his decision. And we did what we had to do, and we wish him nothing but the best -- except when he plays the Knicks, and that's it."
Best wishes or not, Lin and the Rockets (12-12) again thrived against the Knicks. Questions of how the scoring-minded Lin could play with Harden popped up in Houston, similar to concerns about how Lin would pair with Anthony in New York. However, Lin and Harden meshed well together Monday.
The Rockets were in command most of the night, humbling a team that previously was 10-0 on its home court.
Up by two after the first quarter, Houston opened a 56-42 lead at the half. Harden and Lin scored 16 points apiece before the break.
The Rockets ran away with the game a little past the midway point of the third quarter. Up 60-55 with 6:18 left in the quarter, the Rockets went on a 15-0 run. Harden sank consecutive 3-pointers, Marcus Morris scored five points and Lin added four points and three assists during the stretch.
Houston ended the third quarter up 83-60 and cruised from there.
NOTES: Lin said before the game he wasn't sure what type of reaction he'd receive from the crowd at the Garden, but that he remained grateful to New York fans no matter what. "I think it'll always have a special place, no matter where I play because that was the beginning, and anytime you have a stretch like that ... it'll have a place in my heart forever," he said. ... Woodson said he was not sure whether Anthony, who missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle, would be able to return Wednesday when the Knicks host the Nets. ... Forward Amar'e Stoudemire (left knee debridement) will practice Wednesday with the Knicks' D-League team, Woodson said, and could practice with the Knicks by Thursday. If he comes out of those sessions without any setbacks, Woodson indicated Stoudemire could return by Friday night. ... Wallace was out again due to a sore left foot.