Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 2/12/12
MINNEAPOLIS Jeremy Lin is more than a phenomenon. On Saturday night, he became an effect. The Jeremy Lin Effect has struck the Knicks, manifesting itself in a come-from-behind 100-98 victory over the Timberwolves in the most dramatic of fashions. Its win streak extended to five, New York's magic hasn't faded, but Saturday night marked a change. For the first time in a week, Lin wasn't the biggest story on the court, yet in some pervasive way, he still was. The point guard finished the night with 20 points and made the free throw that put the Knicks ahead, 99-98, with just 4 seconds left in the game. But the Timberwolves held him to just five points in the second half, and the victory was, perhaps for the first time in a week, a true team effort. Iman Schumpert finished with 20 points off the bench, and Landry Fields had 19. Those numbers were a far cry from Lin's 38 points just a night before, but the all-around effort was an encouraging sign for a team that's been unstable at best this season. "It was an ugly one," Lin said. "It was a gutsy one. It was a road win. Everybody was tired. But that's the beauty of basketball. That's the beauty of our team, is we never gave up." It was a win this Knicks team might not have been able to execute or even imagine just two weeks ago, and the energy and confidence Lin has brought to its locker room is hard to quantify. The team is loud. It's relaxed. It's in that giddy stage where exhilaration has somehow overpowered exhaustion. Center Tyson Chandler called Saturday night's matchup a "trap game." After a big win over the Lakers at Madison Square Garden on Friday, it would have been easy for the Knicks to overlook the Timberwolves, to succumb to exhaustion after a long plane ride a just a few hours of sleep. And that might have happened before Lin, who has changed the mindset of his entire team. Saturday might have been the first indication of how big his effect can be, as the Knicks clawed their way back into a messy game that could have marked the end of their week-long ride. "This is one of those games that can change your season around and propel you in the right direction," Chandler said. Now that the Knicks have gotten this sustained taste of victory, their chemistry has changed. Saturday's game was a win that coach Mike D'Antoni said his team willed into reality, and whether Lin had two points or 38 really didn't matter. For the humble 23-year-old, shouldering the glory and responsibility of winning has been at times a burden, and the team effort may have been crucial toward sustaining his performance. That's not to say Lin didn't play his part. On the night when he passed Allen Iverson and became the player with the most points (109) in the first four starts of his career since the NBA-ABA merger, the point guard's 20 points tied him for the most on his team. But expectations have ballooned for the man who just eight days ago had none. Now, 20 points is an off night. A week ago, it would have been a career-changing performance. "You got to let off the guy a little bit," Chandler said. "He's playing incredible, and I think that's the reason why the expectations are starting to fly around." When it comes to determining just how much Lin is capable of in the long run, however, the Knicks are flying blind. His coach last season when he played for Golden State, Keith Smart, said on Monday that Lin has just started to learn the NBA, how to play in the league and to see the game. He'd never really gotten that chance before, playing only 285 minutes for Smart and appearing in just nine games for the Knicks before he began his record-breaking run last Saturday. D'Antoni said he has no clue if Lin is improving. For all he knows, the point guard has always been this good. He'd just never gotten the chance to show anyone. "That's one of the reasons why he gets overlooked, because you don't see the intangibles unless he plays," D'Antoni said. "You can't get it from a workout. You can't get it from one-on-one." He may have always had the talent, but after spending much of his season seemingly on the verge of being cut, Lin said he could never have expected to do what he's done in the past week. He's gone from an unknown, undrafted player out of Harvard to the darling of the NBA, and a week hasn't been nearly enough time for him to negotiate such a radical change. "I just feel like I'm still living a dream," Lin said. "I feel like I'm in a dream right now." It's a strange dream, for sure, of opposing fans cheering and chanting "overrated." It's a dream of scoring and passing, but it's also littered with bruises and scratches and a leg so heavily iced it's numb. Lin is tired. He's never played so much basketball in so little time, and the 39 minutes he's averaged over the past five games began to show on Saturday. It was OK, though. The individual magic lasted just long enough for Lin's teammates to catch on, to rally around him. They've bought in, and as much as they've gotten behind their team, they're also cheering for the young point guard. On Saturday, the rest of the Knicks stepped up as Lin lagged, but even as he tired, the point guard had enough left to secure his team's comeback. When Lin stepped to the free throw line with the game tied and four seconds remaining, the magic faltered. He missed, but no one worried. Because when the time came, with one flick of an undoubtedly sore wrist, it was all back. The free throw was good, the Knicks won, and Lin became more than a feel-good story. He became a shot at success for a faltering New York team. Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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