NEW YORK - Carmelo Anthony made his long-awaited return to the Knicks on Monday but his partnership with Jeremy Lin failed to fire as New York fell 100-92 to the New Jersey Nets.
Chinese-American Lin had launched his sensational run with the Knicks by coming off the bench on Feb 4 to score 25 points in a victory over New Jersey. He was then installed as a starter for New York, who went on to win their next six games.
The point guard from Harvard, an elite college better known as a springboard to the US presidency than to basketball success, has galvanized a struggling Knicks team and launched a craze dubbed "Linsanity" by New York's tabloids.
On Monday, Lin scored 21 points and had nine assists while a rusty Anthony, sidelined for the last seven games with a groin injury, produced only 11.
"I think we need to find a good balance," Lin told reporters. "It's a little tough right now with no practice time.
There's going to be a little bit of adjustment time. "It is day one."
The Nets, led by the shooting of a determined Deron Williams, avenged their loss to the Knicks, who were coming off an emotional win over NBA champions Dallas.
All-Star point guard Williams sank a career-high eight three-pointers and scored 38 points as the Nets dampened the excitement over Lin's emergence in a tough, physical game at Madison Square Garden.
Williams shot a blistering 8-for-14 from beyond the three-point arc, pouring in 18 points during the third quarter as New Jersey pulled away. New York's best defensive guard, Iman Shumpert, was not available due to a knee injury.
"We had this game circled. I'd be lying if I didn't say that," Williams said after the cross-river Nets improved to 10-24. "With all the 'Linsanity', (there were) more questions about them than us at shootarounds.
"It's been bothering us. We took it personal today."
Lin, who played 44 minutes in Sunday's victory over the Mavericks, was unable to penetrate deep into the lane as New Jersey clogged the middle with their big men.
New York guard Baron Davis made his season debut rebounding from a back injury and scored just three points in 10 minutes.
"Our biggest problem was Deron Williams. That's one of the best guards in the league," said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni when asked if the Knicks had a letdown after their win over Dallas.
"Our energy wasn't where it had to be. The energy wasn't right the whole night."