It started with an appreciative round of applause during pre-game player introductions, cascaded into deafening boos once the game actually tipped off, and then finally Jeremy Lin's return to Madison Square Garden was capped off with another ovation as he left the game for good with 2:12 left in the final quarter, the Rockets safely having the game in hand. Sandwiched in between the grand opening – and grand closing – was a game of basketball that had the New York media – and their Asian counterparts – clamoring for the best view inside Madison Square Garden.
In the end it may have been a little anti-climatic; Lin never reached the dizzy heights he did during his explosive run last season while a member of the home team, but he did enough to remind everyone that despite his struggles this season, he is still capable of being an impact player when the situation calls for it.
In front of a sell-out crowd, Lin ended up with 22-points (9/15 field goals), eight assists, four rebounds and two steals, and repeatedly carved up the lackluster Knick defense, which surprisingly missed Rasheed Wallace's presence. Lin downplayed his performance saying the win was more important than the sideshow of his return.
"We were just thankful to get the win," Lin mused following the Rockets 109-96 victory. "It was a lot of fun playing out there and I think our team took a step in the right direction, [for me] it was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to play on that court again."
Much had been made of the reception Lin would receive, even über-fan Spike Lee weighed in via his Twitter account earlier in the day: "Tonight at Da Garden I Will Not Boo Jeremy Lin At His Introduction But After TIP-OFF."
Lin spoke on the reception he got.
"It was fine, I had fun out there," he said. "I'm thankful to the fans; a lot of people showed out and supported and wore my old jersey so I'm still thankful to the fans, it was actually much better than I thought."
Even the match-up with Raymond Felton – who had previously stated he felt he was better than Lin – failed to be the must-watch spectacle the crowd had hoped as Lin easily won the battle of the point guards. Felton, to his credit, praised Lin after the game.
"Oh, he had a good game without a doubt," said Felton. "Anything I said about Jeremy was that he deserved everything he got. You know, he had a good game. Plain and simple."
Lin sustained the boos during the game, flagrant fouls by Tyson Chandler late in the first-half, and a match-up with Felton to come out on top of his former team for the second time this season. Like the former darling of the MSG crowd kept saying throughout his post-game press conference: "It was fun."