Jeremy Lin had an easy night ahead of his toughest opponent yet, and the New York Knicks tuned up for their trip to Miami by beating the Atlanta Hawks 99-82 on Wednesday night.
By AP FeedFoxSports
Not much heat from the Hawks for Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks. That's likely to change Thursday night when it's Lin vs. LeBron in Miami.
Lin had 17 points and nine assists, sitting out most of the fourth quarter in a rare easy game during his remarkable run, and the Knicks tuned up for their trip by beating Atlanta 99-82 on Wednesday.
Carmelo Anthony scored 15 points in his second game back from injury for the Knicks, who led the depleted Hawks by 25 points at halftime. New York bounced back from a loss to New Jersey on Monday and won for the ninth time in 11 games since Lin joined the rotation.
The Knicks visit Miami on Thursday in their final game before the All-Star break, and Lin's emergence has the Heat's attention.
''It's going to be a lot of, a lot of anticipation about this game,'' Anthony said. ''We're going down there to win. Miami is playing great basketball right now. One of the hottest teams, if not the hottest team in the NBA.
''It'll be a great game.''
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and teammates have been asked repeatedly in recent days about the ex-Harvard guard, and coach Mike D'Antoni was told the word out of Miami is the Heat will be waiting for the Knicks' back-to-back Sports Illustrated cover boy.
''At the airport?'' he joked.
Not quite. But whatever they do will provide more resistance than the Hawks, who trailed by as many as 30.
Jeff Teague scored 18 points for the Hawks. They played without All-Star guard Joe Johnson, who left their loss at Chicago on Monday with a sore left knee and had to pull out of Sunday's game in Orlando, and have lost three straight and five of six.
''Coming into this game, being as depleted as we were, I still was hoping we could come out and just put together four solid quarters. We just didn't do that,'' Hawks coach Larry Drew said.
The Knicks shot 52 percent in the first half, scored 30 points in both periods, and led 60-35 at the break.
''We are professionals. They just came out and they attacked us,'' Teague said. ''That's all I can really say.''
The Knicks lost their focus briefly midway through the third before pulling away again to lead 78-56 heading into the fourth. Lin watched the first 6-plus minutes of the final period before D'Antoni curiously put him back in leading by 20 with 5:13 left. Lin still played only 33 minutes after he logged at least 36 in all but one of the previous 10 games.
He'll likely need to do more against the Heat, who have won seven in a row and have the NBA's best record at 26-7.
The Heat have been the NBA's biggest story since building their Big Three in 2010, but even they've been playing in Lin's shadow the last two weeks. That will change Thursday in a nationally televised game that James said could be ''one of the most watched games we've had in a long time, especially with what Jeremy Lin is doing.''
But Lin isn't getting caught up in the hype.
''I think for us, we want to make sure what we're thinking about is we want to build momentum going into the All-Star break and we want to make a push after the All-Star break. And I think this is a good opportunity to build momentum,'' he said.
''It's a big game, don't get me wrong. We're playing a great team, and it's going to be a good evaluation of where we're at. So from that end obviously we're excited and ready for the challenge. But besides that, we're just going try to stay consistent.''
The game against Atlanta came on the one-year anniversary of the Knicks' acquisition of Anthony from Denver in a blockbuster trade that cost them four of their top six players. The results have been underwhelming — 14-14 last season and 17-17 this season, and D'Antoni acknowledged the high price the Knicks paid for the All-Star forward ''depleted a lot of things.''
However, he said they've built their depth back, and the potential was obvious in the first half, when all nine players who played scored.
New additions Baron Davis and J.R. Smith could be an explosive second-team backcourt, and teamed up on a pretty alley-oop that Smith dropped in with his back to the hoop. Steve Novak is the 3-point specialist needed to space the floor so Lin and Anthony have room to drive into the lane.
''The things are developing and we'll get our guys, everybody up to par, and if that happens then we should be fairly good,'' D'Antoni said.
Novak made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points. Landry Fields had 16, and Smith finished with 12. Davis had six assists in 14 minutes.
Notes: Drew was disappointed that Josh Smith was passed over in favor of Boston's Rajon Rondo when Commissioner David Stern chose the injury replacement for Johnson. Smith averages 16 points and 9.6 rebounds, is top 15 in the league in blocks, rebounds and steals, and was already considered perhaps the biggest snub when reserves were chosen. ''I really thought that he would get the invite once word was that Joe wouldn't be able to play,'' Drew said. ''I mean, you look at Josh's numbers, he has good numbers. His numbers are good enough to be where he should be an All-Star. Why he didn't make it, I don't know.'' ... Knicks assistant Mike Woodson was the Hawks' head coach from 2004-10. ... Lansdowne Road, an Irish pub in the Hell's Kitchen section of New York, announced it was changing its name to LINsdowne Road