Lin leads Rockets' rout in return to New York


Lin leads Rockets' rout in return to New York

NEW YORK (AP) Jeremy Lin won again at Madison Square Garden - and for the first time this season, the New York Knicks didn't.

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.

Cheered then jeered, and later clobbered, Lin added another masterpiece to the ones he put together last season during the height of Linsanity. 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.

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 finished last season with under Mike Woodson.

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 memorable run last winter, when he went from undrafted benchwarmer to the biggest story in basketball.

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.

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 whenever he made a basket. There were boos when Tyson Chandler knocked him to the ground with a shot to the head that resulted in a flagrant foul.

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 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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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.

After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.


Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.

Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.

His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.

In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.