It should not have been that surprising that the Knicks' sensational point guard Jeremy Lin struggled in a 102-88 loss to the Miami Heat Thursday night. In his previous 10 games as a starter, the Knicks' opponents had a combined .403 winning percentage, suggesting he was feasting on weaker competition.
The Heat, meanwhile, came into Thursday night's game with the best record in the NBA and the fifth-lowest points allowed per 100 possessions (96.5) in the NBA. And the Heat used the same defensive tenacity against Lin that they have become known for.
"They did a great job of making me uncomfortable," Lin said after the game. "I can't remember another game where it was hard to just take dribbles."
The Heat's secret weapon against Lin was one of the most elementary defensive maneuvers in basketball: the double team. Whenever Lin had the ball, the Heat swarmed. Whether it was Joel Anthony swooping in to block a third-quarter shot near the rim or LeBron James applying help to either PG Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole, the Heat made sure Lin had trouble breathing while he had the ball.
In an interview with TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager after the first quarter, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni complained of the Heat "holding" Lin. But the TNT crew quickly pointed out that one coach's holding is another coach's (Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, in this case) tough defense.
The Knicks had been exploiting Lin's quickness and ballhandling skills with the pick and roll, using the tactic on almost half his possessions leading up to Thursday's game.
But unlike all other teams that try to stop the pick and roll, the Heat have LeBron James. According to the basketball blog Hardwood Paroxysm, James forces a turnover 23% of the time when defending against the pick and roll, an absurdly high turnover rate.
So does the Heat's dismantling of Jeremy Lin mean the Linsanity is actually over? Probably not. Lin was bound to have a rough outing sooner or later, and the fact that it came against one of the strongest defensive teams in the league should be no surprise.
The real test for Lin begins now, when other teams have a blueprint to stop him with plenty of game film to study. With some time off thanks to the All-Star break and a light schedule in the next week, Lin and D'Antoni should have a good chance to make some corrections to their game plan that could make Lin a tougher stop when the Heat next play the Knicks, on April 15 at Madison Square Garden.