As expected, the Charlotte Hornets kicked off their road trip with a 112-103 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as Kemba Walker had a strong third quarter and Jeremy Lin enjoyed a strong finish too, but the absence of Al Jefferson and Nicolas Batum leaving the game early didn’t really contribute.
Walker finished with a team high 29 points, including 21 of them coming in the second half, 15 in the third quarter. However, his shooting wasn’t too hot in the fourth quarter in which he finished with three assists as well. Overall Walker shot 9-for-19 from the field but just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc (another hint he should focus on trying to shorten his range sometimes), adding 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. As always, when Walker does well, so does Marvin Williams, scoring 22 points.
Lin finished with 14 points in 27 minutes, in a weird game for him. He was ice cold for most of the game but ended up finding openings in the Cavaliers defense to make a couple of shots (finally) and mostly going to the line. He was 3-for-9 from the field including just 25% from beyond the arc, while shooting 7-for-7 from the line. He had 3 boards and one assist, while also turning the ball over five times.
The Cavaliers, blowing a 21-point lead to allow the Hornets to come within four until Kevin Love and J.R. Smith remembered the people supposed to be guarding them aren’t doing their jobs. Smith finished with 27 points on 6-for-9 from beyond the arc and Kevin Love hit five three-pointers en route to 25 points. A lot of it was made possible due to the bad perimeter defense by the Hornets, but also LeBron James not having Kyrie Irving next to him.
With Irving playing the way he has recently, with or without any connection to his relationship problems and woes, the Cavaliers are better off without him. There’s a clear number one on the team that way, and everyone knows their place. James is the better point-something anyway, finishing with 31 points, 8 rebounds and 12 assists, not taking a single three point attempt. Maybe he was being smart, maybe it’s a confidence game when it comes to his long range shooting, which has really fallen off this season, making just 29.2% of his shots from beyond the arc.
Batum wasn’t that great when he played anyway, but him hurting his knee isn’t good news. Lin looking like he’s playing with a bad back, at least in the first half, doesn’t bode well either. The Hornets do have a day of rest before another tough road game against the Toronto Raptors, but with this loss they already slip to 6th in the conference, 0.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics at the 3-4.
The closest the Hornets got to the Cavaliers came when Lin was scorching (10 points in the fourth). Him being the vanguard of their offense provides the best opportunity for this team to break the mold, even if Walker will end up with more points. You can score points without playing in the same, predictable style, which teams are willing to swallow while something more dangerous doesn’t break them. Either way, the Hornets weren’t good enough in any kind of way to turn an awful 2.5 quarters into their second win this season over the Cavaliers.