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Lin leads Rockets' rout in return to New York

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Lin leads Rockets' rout in return to New York

NEW YORK (AP) Jeremy Lin will never forget that brief, beautiful stretch of basketball known as Linsanity.

His first trip back to Madison Square Garden was memorable, too.

Lin had 22 points and eight assists in his return to New York, leading the Houston Rockets to a 109-96 victory Monday night that ended the Knicks' 10-game home winning streak to open the season.

The undrafted point guard from Harvard said before the game he would always remember his breakthrough, no matter how long he plays. But he wasn't thinking about it Monday, even as he put together a good imitation of it.

``I've moved on, they've moved on,'' Lin said. ``We have good memories, but at the same time we're all in a different place now.''

Cheered then jeered, and later floored by Tyson Chandler's flagrant foul, Lin added another masterpiece to the ones he compiled last season during the height of his memorable run. No longer the fan favorite he was when wearing the home uniform, Lin got a mixed reception when he left the game with 2:25 remaining and the Rockets leading by 16.

``It was a lot of fun playing out there and I think our team, we took a step in the right direction,'' Lin said. ``And for me, it was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to play on that court again.''

James Harden had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who blew out the Knicks for the second time this season. They have won the last seven meetings, including a 131-103 rout in Houston on Nov. 23.

Rookie Chris Copeland scored a career-high 29 points for the Knicks, who played without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony and had their four-game winning streak snapped. They fell to 18-6, matching the record they had under Mike Woodson after he replaced Mike D'Antoni on March 14 last season.

Woodson's team decided not to match Houston's contract offer to Lin, and nobody could argue when Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni led the Knicks to the best record in the Eastern Conference with a team that led the NBA in fewest turnovers.

But Lin was the best point guard on the floor, just as he so often was during his dazzling run last winter, when the NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent went from undrafted benchwarmer to the biggest story in basketball.

``He had a good game, without a doubt,'' Felton said. ``I never talked junk about Jeremy Lin. Anything I said about Jeremy, I felt like he deserved anything. He deserved everything he got. He had a good game. Plain and simple.''

Felton scored 14 points but shot 7 of 18. Kidd was 2 for 9, and both committed three turnovers.

The Rockets outscored the Knicks 54-29 over the middle two quarters, denying New York its first 11-0 start at home since the 1991-92 season.

The Knicks trailed by just five midway through the third quarter before the Rockets blew it open with a 15-0 run, with Lin either scoring or assisting on five of their six baskets.

His layup opened the run, and he then found Marcus Morris for a layup and a 3-pointer for a 67-55 Houston lead. Lin assisted on the second of Harden's consecutive 3-pointers, then had a steal and layup that gave Houston a 75-55 cushion.

Lin saw some fans wearing his old jersey, but said he didn't let his mind drift back to last season during the game. He doubled his scoring average in what he called an up-and-down season so far.

``I hope this is the start of a nice run for him, because he works really hard,'' Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. ``He's a great kid. He deserves it.''

Anthony decided Monday to give his sprained left ankle a second straight game to recover. The Knicks did get good injury news when Amare Stoudemire, out all season after left knee surgery, was cleared to practice. He will work out with Erie, the Knicks' NBA Development League affiliate, when it practices at the Knicks' training facility on Tuesday.

The Rockets snapped a seven-game road losing streak, their longest since an eight-game skid in 2001-02.

A sellout crowd that included swimsuit model Kate Upton - who was on one fewer Sports Illustrated covers than Lin last February - gave the Harvard graduate a loud ovation during the introduction of starting lineups. The cheers quickly turned to jeers once the game started, particularly when he made a basket. There were boos when Chandler knocked him to the ground with a shot to the head that resulted in a flagrant foul.

``He hit me hard, but I still kept coming though,'' Lin said.

Chandler felt it was a clean, hard foul that didn't warrant a flagrant. He and Lin hugged after the game.

``He had a good game,'' Chandler said. ``He had a good game the other night. He's a good player. He's going to have some nights, but I thought we could have took away a lot of his easy baskets, him and James Harden.''

J.R. Smith came off the bench to make all five shots and give the Knicks a 31-29 after one. The Rockets scored the first 10 of the second quarter, opening a 39-31 lead on Lin's 3-pointer with 9:26 left in the half. Houston scored the final six of the half, turning an eight-point lead into a 56-42 cushion.

NOTES: Stoudemire is working out with the D-League team because the Knicks are not expected to do much running at practice Tuesday. They haven't held a formal practice since Dec. 4. ``It seems strange but we have a stretch right now where we're playing every other day and it's hard to play a game and then think you can come in and drill these guys,'' Woodson said. ``I like to practice, that's where I feel like you learn a lot and stay sharp in terms of your defensive rotations, but I can't run them in practice and expect them to come back and play the next day and then practice again. There's just too many games coming at us right now.''

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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

The Capitals head into Thanksgiving on a high note after a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

Here's why they won.

Line changes

Barry Trotz surprised everyone by changing up the lines and reuniting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom despite coyly telling the media that he would use the same "group" just two hours before the game. The move worked, however, as an energized Caps team took the ice. The moves were not just felt on the top line, there was a boost all throughout the lineup to start the game and the energy the team played with was evident.

The Caps’ best offensive players looked like their best offensive players

Much has been written in recent days about the Caps’ top-six and its offensive struggles, but they seemed just fine against Ottawa. Ovechkin (1 goal), Backstrom (1 assist), T.J. Oshie (2 assists), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 goal, 2 assists) and Jakub Vrana (2 goals) all had big nights.

Ovechkin's late first period goal

Multi-goal leads have been hard to come by for the Caps of late. Despite a strong first period, Washington held only a 1-0 lead as the first frame drew to a close. Instead of having a chance to regroup in the locker room, Ottawa found itself suddenly down by two as Ovechkin scored with just five seconds left. That goal set the tone for the start of the second period where Washington was able to tack on another two goals to take the 4-0 lead. Does that momentum carry over to the second without Ovechkin's late tally? I'm not so sure.

Killing a 5-on-3 power play in the second period

Despite the 4-0 deficit, the Senators hung around and scored in the second period to make it 4-1. Then Ovechkin was called for a high-stick and Backstrom got into a bit of a tussle with Ben Harpur after getting a high-stick from him. The ref sent Ovechkin, Backstrom and Harpur to the box. Just 44 seconds later, Tom Wilson joined them after getting called for a slash giving the Senators 1:16 of a two-man advantage power play. One goal would have pulled them within two with over a period left to play. This game was not over. This was a critical moment for Washington and the penalty kill delivered by killing off both penalties. After that, the game really was no longer in doubt.

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Wizards have letdown on defense, fall to Hornets in overtime

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Wizards have letdown on defense, fall to Hornets in overtime

The Washington Wizards lost the Charlotte Hornets 129-124 in overtime on Wednesday night at the Spectrum Center. Here's analysis of what went down...

Frustrating loss: The Wizards will not head into the Thanksgiving holiday a happy bunch. After an impressive road win at the Milwaukee Bucks, they let a winnable game slip away against the Hornets. They were up nine points with 3:32 left in the fourth, yet allowed the Hornets to force overtime and then dominate the extra period.

Defense was the problem for Washington. After holding opponents to 95 points or less in six of their last seven games, the Wizards gave up 129 points to an average offensive team. Yes, 15 of those points came in overtime, but the Wizards won't be happy with their defense after this one. They will probably regret the 53 bench points they gave up more than anything.

Beal, Wall heated up late: Neither John Wall or Bradley Beal had a rhythm in the first half, but both woke up later on for the Wizards. Wall had eight points in the first half, but on 3-for-11 shooting. Beal had seven points, but also on 3-for-11 from the field.

Stars can only be held in check for so long and Wall and Beal broke ultimately broke through. Wall had 11 points in the third quarter and Beal had seven. 

For a while it looked like Wall and Beal had taken the game over, but the Wizards couldn't take advantage despite Wall ending up with 31 points and 11 assists and Beal having 22 points, four rebounds and two steals.

Beal's night was highlighted by a series of dunks in the first half, including this one with two hands:

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Howard was a beast: The Wizards did a good job limiting Dwight Howard this past spring when they faced the Hawks in the playoffs, but they had no such luck on Wednesday in their first meeting with Howard's Hornets. Howard was dominant down low with 26 points and 13 rebounds. The Hornets did a good job feeding him in the post and when he has position there are little options beyond sending him to the free throw line. 

Marcin Gortat (eight points, 11 rebounds) is a good match for Howard on most nights. They know each other well as former teammates with the Orlando Magic. Gortat had a fine game, but Howard was at his best on Wednesday. He was coming off of a 25-point, 20-rebound performance and he kept it going against the Wizards.

Howard also blocked Beal's buzzer-beater at the end of regulation. Beal got the ball with two seconds left and tried driving to his left down the baseline. Howard read the move and swatted the ball out of bounds. Howard then had a big bucket with less than a minute to go. He had a putback on an airballed three that was a backbreaker for the Wizards, who needed a stop.

Meeks and Scott were a plus: The Wizards got a nice boost from their bench from Jodie Meeks (nine points) and Mike Scott (13 points), two guys who have proven this season to be instant offense when they're at their best. Scott came in and hit a three with a pair of midrange jumpers in the first half. Meeks was getting it down in the paint with floaters and layups on nice cuts to the basket. 

Scott hit three threes and is now shooting 44.8 percent for the season. It's only on 29 attempts, but that's not bad at all.

Lamb was a problem: The Wizards had a lot of trouble with Hornets reserve Jeremy Lamb, who has been Charlotte's most improved player so far this season. He was a force off the bench with 24 points in 37 minutes. Lamb has always had a lot of potential as a freak athlete with a sweet jumper. He may be starting to truly put it all together.

The Wizards even tried Kelly Oubre, Jr., one of their best defenders, on him. But Lamb kept getting buckets and added seven rebounds and five assists. 

Up next: The Wizards are off for Thanksgiving and Friday. They pick back up on Saturday with the Portland Trail Blazers in town. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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