NEW YORK — Jeremy Lin zipped through the Nets' defense all night before he was finally surrounded.
As teammates hugged him at center court while Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" blasted through the arena, it was clear the New York Knicks had finally found a spark.
And even the Harvard-educated Lin struggled to explain how it ended up being him.
"This night, it just hasn't really sunk in yet to be honest, he said. "It's like I'm still kind of in shock about everything that happened but I'm just trying to soak it all in right now."
Lin scored a career-high 25 points and the Knicks salvaged the finale of a back-to-back-to-back set by the New Jersey Nets 99-92 on Saturday night.
Lin came in to control a sluggish offense, adding a career-best seven assists while outplaying Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams.
"Jeremy came out and gave us a great spark off the bench, and that was phenomenal for us tonight," forward Amare Stoudemire said.
Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler each added 17 points for the Knicks, who won for just the third time in 14 games. They fell just short in losses to Chicago and Boston over the last two nights before picking up a much-needed victory Saturday.
Williams had 21 points and 11 assists but shot 7 of 19 for the Nets, while Kris Humphries added 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Lin was the catalyst for the Knicks, who have been desperate for production at point guard while they wait for Baron Davis to finally become available. Lin was a hit with the fans practically from the moment he checked in, and some of the loudest cheers of this disappointing season roared through Madison Square Garden when his three-point play made it 95-86 with 2:03 remaining.
He scored on the next possession to make it an 11-point game as chants of "Jeremy! Jeremy!" broke out.
Carmelo Anthony had just 11 points on 3 of 15 shooting, perhaps tired on the third straight night of games.
"If you would have told me Melo would go 3 for 15 and Amare would get in foul trouble, I'd think, 'Man, we'd win by double figures,'" Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "But when you have a guy coming off your bench like that and getting 25 points, it's pretty deflating."
The Knicks' struggles have created speculation that Mike D'Antoni's job could be in jeopardy, especially if the Knicks had dropped this one and fallen behind the Nets in the Atlantic Division standings. But he said before the game there was no reason to panic and that he still believed in his players.
He had noted how much they struggled to score beyond Anthony and Stoudemire, needing someone else to step up. He found that someone in Lin, the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.
"He gives us a good feel," D'Antoni said.
The second-year pro has hardly been a factor and even was sent to the NBA Development League recently, where he had a triple-double. But searching for someone to run his pick-and-roll offense, D'Antoni gave him a chance last Saturday at the end of a road trip, though it's hard to imagine he saw this coming, given his concerns about Lin's defensive abilities.
"I had my doubts, but we just stayed with it and he has some of the qualities that we needed," D'Antoni said.
Lin drove along the baseline and fed Stoudemire for the tiebreaking basket, then scored on his own drive for an 86-82 lead with 4:59 left. Stoudemire scored again, and after a jumper by Williams, Chandler converted a three-point play for a 91-84 lead before Lin put it away.
Jordan Farmar scored 19 points for the Nets but Anthony Morrow had only 11 points on 4 of 12 shooting, one night after scoring a career-best 42 points and making an NBA season-high eight 3-pointers.
The Nets raced to a 17-7 lead and were ahead 30-20 after one quarter behind 10 points from Williams. But with Lin playing the entire second quarter in rare first-half playing time, the Knicks seemed to get a spark on both ends of the floor.
"There is so much focus on Carmelo, Amare and the other guys that our game plan was to help off him and go under (screens) on him," Williams said. "He started knocking down shots, got confidence. He was taking it to the basket and had a lot of success."
Lin had team highs of six points and three assists in the second quarter, including a lob to Chandler that allowed the Knicks to tie it at 46 with 1:32 remaining. New Jersey took a two-point lead into the half after a basket by Jordan Williams.
Notes: Humphries was booed loudly on a few occasions, as he was when the Nets played here in the preseason and in a number of other arenas after his brief marriage to reality star Kim Kardashian. ... Nets starters Shawne Williams and Shelden Williams both finished last season with the Knicks. ... The teams play only three times this season, once more at Madison Square Garden and once in Newark.
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