NEW YORK -- Jeremy Lin acknowledged it felt odd walking back into the building in which he became a national sensation.
The Houston Rockets guard didn't know what kind of reaction to expect from all those Madison Square Garden fans who cheered him last season while wearing his No. 17 New York Knicks jersey, savoring the craze known as "Linsanity."
When Lin took the court with the Rockets on Monday night, he recognized some of those same jerseys, felt some of those same cheers, and ultimately had similar results for a different team.
The man who sparked so much noise at the Garden last year helped turn it quiet Monday night, as the Rockets handed the New York Knicks their first home loss of the season.
Lin compiled 22 points and eight assists in the Rockets' 109-96 win, their second rout of the Knicks this year.
"It was fine," Lin said, smiling, when asked about the crowd reaction, which was mostly loud cheers with some boos. "I had fun out there. I was thankful to the fans. I know a lot of people showed out.
"It was actually a lot better than I thought."
Lin and the Rockets might have been better than the Knicks thought, too
Lin, who has been inconsistent this season (scoring in single digits in half of the Rockets' 24 games and sometimes struggling to mesh with fellow guard James Harden), flashed some of the form he showed for New York last season.
"We keep on telling him to be aggressive and attack," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "Maybe he felt comfortable here in Madison Square Garden. I don't know, but he played very well."
The budding bond between the Knicks and Lin -- who burst out of obscurity last season to pile up points against some top NBA foes -- abruptly ended in the offseason, when he bolted for Houston. The Rockets made him a three-year, $25 million offer that former Knicks teammate Carmelo Anthony reportedly called "ridiculous." Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly felt "betrayed," and New York 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 has played well at the point along with veteran Jason Kidd, and the Knicks are off to an 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."
Felton acknowledged Lin and Harden make the Rockets "tough to guard."
Lin smiled when asked about his run-in with former teammate Tyson Chandler, who fouled him hard a couple of times as he attempted to drive the lane, drawing a flagrant call after hitting Lin in the head in the second quarter. Saying Chandler was like a "big brother," Lin said he didn't think there was any malicious intent.
"At the end of the day, when someone comes in your lane, you want to make them think twice of coming back," Lin said. He smiled as he added, "I kept coming, though."
Chandler said: "I don't think it was a flagrant foul. It was just a hard foul at the rim. I didn't want him to make the layup, but it was nothing malicious -- just a hard, solid foul."
Before the game, Lin said the Knicks would "always have a special place in my heart forever" since his career took off with them during a fairytale stretch last season.
Afterward, though, he acknowledged he didn't have any flashbacks to that time as he piled up points against his old team.
"I'm in a very different place," he said. "They've moved on, I've moved on. We have good memories, but at the same time, we're all in a different place now."