WASHINGTON (AP) — What a week it has been for Jeremy Lin.
With three breakout games, the Harvard graduate has become the NBA’s newest playmaking sensation. He’s a fan favorite — home and away — and has earned more than 60,000 Twitter followers in just five days.
Now, he also has his first NBA dunk.
Lin had 23 points — two on that slam — and a career-high 10 assists in the New York Knicks’ 107-93 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
Late in the third quarter with the Knicks up by four, Lin drove past three Wizards players and suddenly was alone in front of the hoop and slammed it through with his right hand.
“Just one of those in-a-moment things,” Lin said. “I think they messed up on their coverage, so I was able to get free.”
In his first two NBA starts, Lin had 25 points against New Jersey and 28 more against Utah — both wins. Now, he had to go on the road, and instead of facing a hostile crowd, Lin found an adoring one.
The fans cheered louder for Lin than for any other player in introductions, waving Taiwanese flags and signs –including one that read: “Linning and Grinning.”
By the time the game ended, the crowd was chanting for him as he walked off the floor.
“Like I said after the last game, I wouldn’t have imagined this,” said Lin, who was undrafted in 2010 and played his rookie season in Golden State.
“Thanks to them for coming out and they came out strong for the Knicks tonight,” he added. “We had a lot of energy that came from them.”
When the Knicks last played here on Jan. 6, Lin didn’t play at all. With their two leading scorers missing — Carmelo Anthony gone for a week or two with a strained right groin and Amare Stoudemire mourning the loss of his brother — New York desperately needed Lin’s scoring this time around.
He didn’t single-handedly make up for the 40 points that Anthony and Stoudemire provide, but sure energized this decidedly pro-New York crowd.
“He just does everything easy and the rest of the guys around him are playing the way we want to play,” New York coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Tyson Chandler had 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Knicks, who won for the third straight time. Chandler, a 10-year NBA veteran, finished two points short of his career high, but it was again Lin’s night.
This season has been a rough one for D’Antoni, who’s facing questions about his job, but for now, he has a most unexpected asset — Lin.
“I think it’s for real,” D’Antoni said. “The things that are real are his vision, which won’t change; his speed, which won’t change; his knowledge of the game, which won’t change. I think it can only get better.”
Steve Novak added 19 points for New York, which won its eighth straight over Washington and earned its second three-game winning streak this season.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman knew about Lin from a close relative. His son played against Lin in college. Ryan Wittman, who played for Cornell, sent his father a sarcastic message during the game.
“He told me that they did a much better job guarding him than we did tonight,” Wittman said. “I already had that text message before the game was over. Makes Dad feel good.”
Washington dropped to 5-21, and failed again to get its first two-game winning streak of the season. John Wall led the Wizards with 29 points, but he was easily outdone by Lin.
The Knicks shot just 25 percent in the first quarter and trailed 23-17. Lin missed all three shots he attempted, and moments after the third, he was called for his second foul — a block against Wall — and sustained a gash and left the game with 4:06 to play.
The second quarter was much better for New York as it outscored Washington 35-23 to take a 52-46 halftime lead. Novak hit four 3-pointers.
Lin returned about two minutes into the second quarter and scored eight points — on three layups and a pretty 17-foot bank shot just before halftime. He found Novak for all four of his 3s.
Lin scored on a bank shot to start the third quarter, and after Washington scored the next 10 points for a 56-54 lead, he hit four free throws, another layup and a right-handed dunk with 2:59 left to give the Knicks a 72-66 lead. He made another layup to end the quarter with 12 points — and a 77-68 New York advantage.
The Wizards narrowed the deficit to 79-72, but Lin and Iman Shumpert, who had 11 of his 17 points in the quarter helped give New York a 103-85 lead with 3:22 to play.
Notes: Five of the seven Knicks who scored were in double figures. … New York G Baron Davis, who hasn’t played this season due to a herniated disk in his back, will return to practice on Thursday, D’Antoni said. He’s not sure when Davis will be ready to play. … Stoudemire will return next Monday. He’s scheduled to miss four games. … Washington F Rashard Lewis missed his second straight game with a sore left knee. … Trevor Booker had 17 points for the Wizards.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)