THE FACTS: In his first appearance at Madison Square Garden since signing with the Rockets during the summer, Jeremy Lin went for 22 points and eight assists and James Harden added 28 points and 10 rebounds as the Houston Rockets handed the Knicks their first home loss of the season, 109-96.
Playing without Carmelo Anthony (sprained ankle) and Rasheed Wallace (sore left foot), the Knicks (18-6) had their four-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 10-1 at home.
Houston (12-12) improved to 8-1 at the Garden since, 2003-04, the best road record against the Knicks in that span. The Rockets have now beaten the Knicks twice this season by a combined 41 points.
Lin reached the 20-point plateau for just the third time in 24 games since leaving the Knicks. He led his team to victory by repeatedly driving to the basket, where at one point in the second quarter he was elbowed in the face by Tyson Chandler, who was whistled for a flagrant foul. Boos reigned down on Lin as he shot the foul shots, making 1-of-2. Fans cheered when he missed.
Rookie Chris Copeland scored a career-high 29 points for the Knicks and J.R. Smith added 17.
QUOTABLE: "We're just thankful to get the win. It was a lot of fun playing out there and I think our team, we took a step in the right direction. It was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to play on that court again."
THE STAT: The Rockets shot 19-of-24 from the line, while the Knicks went 9-for-16.
TURNING POINT: After the Knicks came back to seize 31-29 first-quarter lead, the Rockets outscored the Knicks, 27-11, in the second to take a 56-42 halftime lead. Lin (eight points) and Harden (seven) combined for 15 points in the period. Both had 16 points at the break. The Rockets then outscored the Knicks 27-18 in the third to stretch the lead to 80-63.
QUOTABLE II: "We didn't play well again. It's just that simple. They played great and we played awful."
-- Knicks coach Mike Woodson
WHO'S HOT: Harden and Lin combined for 50 points on 18-for-33 shooting.
WHO'S NOT: Raymond Felton, whom the Knicks signed before opting not to re-sign Lin, shot 7-of-18 from the field for 14 points and had trouble defending Lin.
QUOTABLE III: "He hit me hard, I still kept coming, though. It was fun, it was fun, it was friendly. It wasn't malicious. He was like a big brother to me last year."
-- Lin on Chandler's flagrant foul.
NOTABLE: The Knicks were 8-15 before Lin took over the point -guard duties, but during "Linsanity" he led the team to seven straight wins and 16 victories in the next 25 games. "I don't think anybody from the Rockets organization is expecting me to recreate anything, and I'm not either," Lin said pregame. He added: "Anytime you have a stretch like that you'll remember it forever."
NOTABLE II: The Knicks are in the midst of a six-game homestand and Woodson wants to continue to stretch their lead in the Atlantic Division. They hope to have Anthony back Wednesday against Brooklyn. "This is a nice stretch for us and you gotta take advantage of it as a team," Woodson said. "We're trying to separate from the pack and we're in a good position because we do have home games and we've been pretty awesome here at home so we just gotta continue that."
NOTABLE III: Amar'e Stoudemire has been cleared to practice and will practice with the Knicks' D-League team, the Erie Bayhawks, Tuesday and Thursday in New York. Stoudemire could potentially make his season debut Friday or Sunday after missing the season with a knee procedure. "I just want to make sure he gets out of the practice not hurting," Woodson said. "I want to make sure that his knee is sound and that he's ready to go."
QUOTABLE IV: "[Lin] did what he had to to by making his decision and we've done what we had to do and we wish him nothing but the best until he plays the Knicks. And that's it."
INSIDE THE ARENA: Kate Upton, 50 Cent and John McEnroe sat courtside.
UP NEXT: For the Knicks, Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, Friday vs. Chicago, Sunday vs. Minnesota. For the Rockets, Wednesday vs. Philadelphia, Saturday vs. Memphis, Dec. 25 at Chicago.