Jeremy Lin comes back to earth, but inspires Knicks win

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The Knicks would not have won this game two weeks ago.

And that is the true measure Linsanity — it is not just the points and assists that Jeremy Lin brings anymore, it’s about the energy and fight he has brought out of this roster. Two weeks ago the Knicks would have rolled over and taken their loss on the second night of a back-to-back. They would have would all have been gunners and when the shots didn’t fall they would have accepted their fate.

Not now. Now they stage comebacks.

Jeremy Lin came back to earth some on Saturday night — hounded by Ricky Rubio he needed 24 shots to get his 20 points, he had eight assists but six turnovers.

But the Knicks — looking tired on the second night of a back-to-back — had other players step up, closed the game on a 5-0 run by making key plays and escaped Minnesota with a 100-98 win.

Oh, and Lin did hit the go-ahead free throw. So you can add that to the legend.

But this game was about the other Knicks. Down six with 3:30 left it looked like this was just not the Knicks night. For the six minutes before that the Knicks scored just two points, courtesy Tyson Chandler. Nothing worked. But they fought hard on defense (and the Timberwolves didn’t take advantage of some good looks and nifty plays by Rubio).

Then Steve Novak drained a three (he finished with 15), then Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert knocked down shots and suddenly the Knicks were ahead 95-94. Shumpert had 20 points off the bench and was New York’s best offensive player of the game.

Minnesota is a young team learning how to win, too. Kevin Love drew a foul and knocked down a couple free throws (he finished with a ridiculous 32 points and 21 rebounds), then Rubio made an impressive driving layup and the Wolves were up 3 with :39 seconds left.

Then, another Novak three. It was tied. Rubio had an ugly turnover, then soon Jeremy Lin was in the lane and drew a foul from Luke Ridnour (who didn’t need to foul, Nikola Pekovic had played Lin well on the drive). Minnesota had time for one clean look, but Rubio dribbled the ball off his foot and you kind of had a feeling how this was going to end.

The Knicks have found something more than just a point guard in Lin, they have found some passion and identity. The return of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony can make that better. The Knicks can start to live up to the preseason promise of the squad. And that is the real meaning of Linsanity. Because two weeks ago that seemed impossible

Cavaliers tie series with Pacers in Indiana, 2-2

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Sunday night’s game between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was raucous. Bankers Life Fieldhouse was rocking, and despite Indiana’s best effort to put back seemingly every offensive board it encountered, LeBron James‘ 32 points was just too much to overcome.

Facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the first round, the Cavaliers pulled out the win, 104-100, and sent the series back to Ohio for Game 5.

The game came down to the final period following a surge by the Pacers to end the third quarter. The teams were tied several times midway through the fourth, but a tip shot by Thaddeus Young wth 6:13 left gave the Pacers the lead as fans in Indiana went wild.

Cleveland then came roaring back. At the three-minute mark, James drove to the basket and scored. Thirty seconds later, Kyle Korver hit a big-time 3-pointer to put the Cavaliers up by four points, a mark the Pacers couldn’t recover from.

LeBron scored again with 1:52 left, and despite some weird late-game antics — featuring none other than Lance Stephenson — the Cavaliers were able to remain resolute down the stretch.

James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Kyle Korver added 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting from deep, and Kevin Love had five points with 11 boards.

Victor Oladipo struggled for Indiana, scoring 17 points but shooting just 25 percent from the floor. Seven Pacers finished in double-digits, with Young notching an impressive double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Game 5 will be played in Cleveland on Wednesday, April 25.

Wizards beat Raptors in Game 4, tie series at 2-2 heading to Toronto

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The Toronto Raptors were far and away the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Washington Wizards were … well, very Wizard-y.

So considering their regular seasons, the fact that Washington was able to tie the first round series between the two teams at 2 games apiece on Sunday is pretty astonishing.

Bradley Beal had 31 points and five rebounds for the Wizards while teammate John Wall added 27 points to go along with a whopping 14 assists. Washington shot an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range as four of five starters finished in double-digit scoring.

Despite Beal’s performance, it was Wall who saved the day for the Wizards. Beal was disqualified after fouling out with around five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Beal didn’t agree with the call, and could be seen throwing a towel near the Washington bench.

For his part, Wall either scored or assisted on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points of the game. That helped stave off the likes of DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 35 points.

The series heads back to Toronto for Game 5, which will be played on Wednesday, April 25.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.

Manu Ginobili leads Spurs over Warriors

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Although the San Antonio Spurs were outmatched against the Golden State Warriors, Manu Ginobili was an integral part of the Spurs staving off elimination against the reigning champs on Sunday. San Antonio beat the Warriors, 103-90, to put the series at 3-1.

The 40-year-old wingman scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in San Antonio as Ettore Messina logged a playoff win at the helm of the team. Gregg Popovich, who sadly lost his wife this past week, did not coach.

Ginobili was 5-of-10 off the bench, adding five assists and three rebounds in the win. LaMarcus Aldridge led all Spurs scorers with 22, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the only Warriors player to score more than 12 points was Kevin Durant, who rose above all scorers with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson shot an embarrassing 25 percent from the field, scoring just 12 points.

Ginobili put the dagger on the Warriors with 90 seconds to go, hitting a spinning flip shot over Draymond Green to give San Antonio a 10-point lead.

The series heads back to Oakland for Game 5 with the Spurs trailing, 3-1.