There are times you just need to put your head down and let the storm blow over. The Charlotte Hornets and especially their bench players, including Jeremy Lin, got destroyed during one of those famous San Antonio Spurs barrages, resulting in a 114-94 loss.
Lin played 22 minutes and scored 12 points, shooting 4-of-10 from the field. However, that’s only part of the story. He finished with a -37 in those minutes on the floor, as the second unit looked completely lost defensively in the second quarter and especially the third going into the fourth, when the Spurs turned a six point deficit into a blowout win.
They got hot, man. They got hot late in the game. We made some mistakes and they made us pay. That’s what they do, especially late in the game. They can explode just like that. We weren’t ready for that pace of play.
The bottom line of that explanation? The Hornets leading 71-65 with 5:39 left in the third, as Lin made his way in instead of P.J. Hairston. Fast forward to 7:07 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Spurs had a 101-79 lead. About 12 minutes of basketball and a 28-point swing, with the Spurs scoring 36 points against just eight by the Hornets. They later opened up a 23-point lead, but that was garbage time, it didn’t matter.
It also didn’t matter that Kemba Walker finished with 27 points or Al Jefferson made life difficult for the Spurs in the first half and early third quarter, finishing with 13 points and 7 rebounds. Great post players and point guards on hot days (like Lin had a few against San Antonio over the years) will give the Spurs and their system some problems. But letting them loose for a minute results in disaster. Maybe just two teams in the league – Spurs and Warriors, can go on runs like this, with the other team not knowing what hit them before they look up at the scoreboard and realize they’ve been swept out of the building.
Lin didn’t have a good day, although he wasn’t as bad as some of his teammates. Jefferson spoke about the ball sticking to the players’ hands. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Hornets talk about their ball movement. The numbers suggest the defense was the issue, but playing foolish, selfish offense (Jeremy Lamb representing) makes it difficult to defend. The Spurs love transition opportunities. The Hornets gave them plenty of that.
The 2-4 start is slightly disappointing. The loss to the Spurs is something expected, but not like this. Blowouts happen and will happen, as the Hornets did to the Bulls a few nights before. But finding the reasons for what worked and didn’t is the most important thing. The worrying part from the Lin angle is that he might be losing credit with Clifford because of how the entire second unit performed. This might mean more minutes for P.J. Hairston, and in the long run, probably not improving this team’s offense because of the early-season inconsistencies.