Nicolas Batum

The Charlotte Hornets are still undefeated in the preseason with a 99-94 win over the Detroit Pistons. Jeremy Lin having a great game at starting point guard with Nicolas Batum alongside him in the backcourt was the main reason they’ve improved to 7-0 during exhibition season.

Lin started at point guard and played 30 minutes with Batum next to him while Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb sat one out. Lin finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, abusing Reggie Jackson with his size, taking him to the rim at almost every opportunity, not even needs screens and picks to get there, where he always drew an extra defender, something which led to some easy points for Al Jefferson and especially Batum, including a nice no-look pass to the wide open Frenchman for the three.

Batum scored 18 points as well in another solid all-around effort that included 10 rebounds and 6 assists. He shot just 5-of-14 from the field but did make 3-of-6 three point attempts. Lin was 1-of-4 from beyond the arc and 5-of-9 from the field. He did look better from the line this time, hitting 7-of-8 attempts. He looks stronger and more decisive than before when attacking the rim, helping him bully guards like Jackson, who had a rough day with just 3-of-15 from the field.

The Hornets played a very big starting lineup that also included Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller and Jefferson. The Hornets won’t have this lineup on the floor for too many minutes this season and it did have its defensive problems and sometimes spacing issues (although Williams is a much better 3-pointer shooter now than he was earlier in his career) but it’s another interesting look for the Hornets and especially for Lin, who might be at his individual best at point guard with a defensive specialist next to him in the backcourt.

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Was this Lin’s best game of the preseason? The second half was possibly his finest. Again, it’s more than just the points or his ability to do the right thing at the right time for the Hornets in the closing minutes to come from behind and win the game. He’s oozing confidence in every possession, not having a problem taking Marcus Morris to the basket before drawing back to hit a jumper over him. Andre Drummond didn’t make him hesitate as well. It was Drummond who seemed confused at some point after Lin kept getting to the rim, either scoring, getting fouled or finding someone open for an easy basket.

We’ve mentioned this a number of times: Preseason is a fickle mistress and can be misleading. However, there’s no denying how confident Lin looks and even more so with every game that goes by. He’s strong, faster and simply a better player overall than he was before he reached the Hornets, clearly making the most of his time to improve during the offseason. The biggest difference comes from how he’s treated from the sidelines. Steve Clifford knows Lin might be the one holding the key to making the playoffs and having a successful season.

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