Jeremy Lin's pull-up three over Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter Sunday was more than just the exclamation point on the rally that led the Knicks to a stirring comeback win.
It was the official end point of Phase 1 of Linsanity. That's the phase where everyone shakes their head in dazed wonderment at what this kid is able to do on the basketball court while silently wondering when his coach is going to turn back into a pumpkin.
Lin is going to have games like Sunday's when he scores 28 points and dishes out 14 assists to bring his team from 12 points down to a 104-97 win, the most impressive of this dizzying run. He's also going to have games like he had on Friday night, when he turned the ball over nine times and played a major role in helping the Knicks lose to a bad Hornets team wearing uniforms that were twice as frightening as the Knicks' play.
In other words, he's an NBA player, capable of ups and downs and all the kinds of games in between that we take for granted from every other starter in the league. The story about his arrival is and will remain an irresistible one, but now that he's arrived the story needs to keep being written without any special credit given for the path he took to get here.
Given the way he played on Sunday, special credit isn't the least bit necessary.
Playing the best team he's ever faced with a defense designed specifically to stop him, Lin didn't back down in the least and kept finding ways for the Knicks to battle through the Mavs.
Had Lin failed, it would have not been a good sign about his staying power because it would show teams could scheme their way into stopping him. The Mavs are a great defensive team and they had a great plan, but it simply wasn't enough to stop Lin from getting the job done.
It helped that, unlike Friday night, most of his teammates came ready to play. The Knicks moved the ball like the textbook Mike D'Antoni offense, pinballing from one man to another until there was an open shot they could bury.
Steve Novak buried five of them at the start of the fourth quarter, taking the Knicks from three down to six up in the process, and then became the latest to steal one of Aaron Rodgers' moves in a swag moment no one saw coming.
J.R. Smith strolled off a plane from Vegas making buckets, working hard on defense and making the perfect first impression on a Garden crowd that was determined to love him.
Tyson Chandler did what Tyson Chandler does just about every night, Landry Fields scored in the first half before Smith and Jared Jeffries glued everything together one more time while also reminding us that dribbling is not for everyone.
Amar'e Stoudemire's defense remains terrifying and his lack of hops when directly under the basket is dismaying, but he grabbed a bunch of offensive rebounds down the stretch to give the team second chances.
That leads us to the next big question for the Knicks and, no, it has nothing to do with Carmelo Anthony's return ruining everything because Anthony is a big, ball-hogging monster who is jealous of Lin's success or whatever WFAN callers are running with these days.
If you watched the Mavs trapping Lin 30 feet out and totally selling out to keep him from the lane without realizing that you can't do that when Anthony is on the court, then there's no amount of reason that's going to make you realize how basketball works.
It has to do with a rotation that has grown exponentially, without even including the in-uniform but unused on Sunday Baron Davis, and D'Antoni managing it without turning anyone off over the second half of the season.
Additions by subtraction -- no more Billy Walker or Mike Bibby -- take care of some issues, but balancing out everyone's time while keeping everyone sharp will take a little trial and error.
It's a good problem to have, especially when you've got Lin running the show to make sure everyone gets their chance to shine and that any errors can be erased in a flash. Lin's not the question mark, he's the given that will make the rest of the engine run and that's why it is time to stop talking about where he came from.
Now is all about where he and the Knicks are going.