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Jeremy Lin’s struggles on defense come to forefront

Knicks point guard Jeremy Lpasses ball as he is defended by Bulls' Derrick Rose second quarter Monday night. | Tom

Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin passes the ball as he is defended by the Bulls' Derrick Rose in the second quarter on Monday night. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 14, 2012 8:15AM

It was understandable that Jeremy Lin needed directions from the New York Knicks’ locker room to the court in his first trip to the United Center.

But what has become an increasing concern for the Knicks is that their overnight sensation often needs directions finding his man on ­defense.

On Monday night, when Lin guarded Derrick Rose, the reigning MVP torched him for 32 points in the Bulls’ 104-99 victory.

Lin was clear on where his defense was lacking.

“On the ball, just making sure we have good communication and then being able to execute that as a team,” Lin said. “He [Rose] had a great performance. He’s MVP. So hats off to him.”

Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t much fazed by Line’s defensive struggles.

“Whenever the psyche is not right, the point guard feels it the most, and probably an inexperienced point guard is going to feel it a lot more,” D’Antoni said. “But I like [Lin’s] game. He’ll get a lot better, and I’m not worried about him at all, other than just trying to help him move along, trying to help him get better like anybody else.”

The question: Is D’Antoni the one who can help him?

In a stats-driven league, it has seemed as if Lin has been put in an ideal situation to succeed. D’Antoni, who helped Steve Nash win back-to-back MVP awards, is known as an offensive savant whose teams push the ball in transition.

But he might be stunting Lin’s growth on defense. D’Antoni’s teams traditionally treat defense as more of a hobby than a vocation.

Lin’s performance against Rose is the latest in a string of poor defensive outings against the league’s elite point guards. The Knicks have lost seven of their last eight and six in a row.

During that stretch, Lin has seen Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings light him up for 25 points and 10 assists and the Boston Celtics’ Rajon Rondo score 18, dish out 20 assists and grab 17 rebounds.

As the playoffs near, Lin’s defense becomes an increasing concern. Nearly every Eastern Conference team has a capable point guard. If the playoffs started today, the Knicks would play the Bulls.

Lin’s frustration on defense was epitomized when, with just over four minutes to play in the second quarter, Rose crossed Lin over and got him to leave his feet. As Rose went up for a jump shot, Lin fouled him. D’Antoni immediately argued the call and received a technical foul.

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