Jeremy Lin, LeBron James

The Charlotte Hornets lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 95-90 for a number of reasons, and maybe mainly because Jeremy Lin wasn’t on the floor during most of the fourth quarter, in another bad decision from Steve Clifford regarding the most important player he has, although he doesn’t seem to realize or appreciate that fact.

LeBron James scored 25 points for the Cavaliers and Kevin Love added 18, while Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 18 points, followed by Nicolas Batum with 17. They shot just 41.3% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc, losing the game despite a nice lead early in the fourth quarter. Coincidence or not, it all started falling apart for them offensively the moment Lin was taken off the floor with 8:25 left in the game, introducing Walker back.

One of the guidelines in the book about rotations and managing players minutes is putting your best players and most effective lineup on the floor during the closing minutes of a close game. By making the mistake of punishing Lin for a turnover (for a second straight game), something Clifford wouldn’t do to almost any other player on his team, he might have cost himself the game, leaving out his best ball handler and passer when he needed him the most.

Unlike the previous game, which was a bad night for Lin, it wasn’t the case against the Cavaliers. Lin didn’t light the place up, but he looked good during his first stint on the floor and finished with 7 points and 5 assists in 20 minutes. He took good shots, but was unfortunate to get blocked on a couple of layups, although one of those was a foul. He crossed over LeBron James and “broke” his ankles, although didn’t hit the 3-point shot afterwards (should have taken it to the basket, where Lin is at his best) and set up Jeremy Lamb for another alley oop, something the two of them do quite well together.

Clifford continues to use Lin in weird minutes, leaving him out for too long and then surprised when it takes him time to warm up during his second stint on the floor. Obviously Lin needs some rest, but Clifford is mismanaging his minutes horribly in most of the last few games, and it’s not surprising to see inconsistent shooting from Lin when his head coach seems to be quite clueless in how to put him at the right times on the court in order to have the most influence.

The Hornets lost the game after Lin went out. They had a small lead but gave it up, allowing LeBron James and J.R. Smith to take over. The Hornets scored just 8 points in the final 10:12 of the game, another Lamb basket off of a Lin assist. The offense got stuck, the ball got stuck, players didn’t move. The same kind of complaints we heard from the guys and Clifford during the first week of the season. He should have figured it out by now; Lin on the floor helps that problem, even if he isn’t hitting everything he shoots and makes some mistakes along the way. Doing his best to crush his confidence (I’m sure he’s not doing it on purpose, but that’ll be the result of taking him off the floor for one mistake) won’t help the Hornets win any games. A Clifford with a contract extension should be making decisions with a cooler head, not blowing them like he did on this occasion.

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