Kemba Walker, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

The Charlotte Hornets keep on with their late March inconsistencies by losing 112-105 to the Detroit Pistons in a game that wasn’t that close for the most part. Kemba Walker was hot early before melting away like the rest of the team while Jeremy Lin was disappointing after two excellent performances, back to his shooting woes and generally having one of those nights with everything going wrong for him.

After a decent start, the Pistons took over. Andre Drummond had no problem getting easy points at the rim (18, 14 rebounds, five offensive) while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Pistons 21 points and Marcus Morris added 20. Aron Baynes added 16 points and Anthony Tolliver finished with 11, as the Pistons bench unit, until the late run by the Hornets, were outplaying the second unit from Charlotte, which has often given the Hornets an edge in games that they’re struggling in.

But besides Walker scoring 29 points and hitting 9-for-18 (including six three pointers in the first half) from the field, the Hornets were cold as ice, shooting a combined 37.3% from the field not including Walker. Nicolas Batum was 4-for-12 from the field, Al Jefferson was 4-for-12 and Jeremy Lin managed 2-for-11 in just 23 minutes. The problem with Walker doing well and the rest bricking is that Walker is a player operating in a vacuum. The Hornets can play very well and he’ll have an awful shooting night and they’ll still win. He can go for 30 points on pretty good shooting (although he went cold in the second half without a single field goal) and it doesn’t push the team forward. The glue and the fire that pushes this team comes from Batum and Lin, although Walker is their most talented scorer.

How did it become a 7-point game? A garbage time unit that included Jeremy Lamb, Troy Daniels, Spencer Hawes, Tyler Hansbrough and Jorge Gutierrez went on a 23-2 run, but the closest they got was making it a 5-point game with 37 seconds left. A nice run, but no miracles in the end, as terrible shooting and mostly effort lacking defense put them in too deep of a hole, as they move on with their road trip to Milwaukee, who might not be the hottest team in the NBA, but will be difficult on a back to back, especially after this kind of performance.

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And what about Lin? After three good scoring games and two fantastic ones in general, this was like a cold bucket of ice to cool down the enthusiasm and momentum, which when you look back at how this season has went, isn’t that surprising. And the whole Clifford calling Lin a bench player, playing down the Spurs win and then pulling a 180 as the Hornets make an effort to erase those words? Well, these are the kind of games that make it difficult to say Clifford is wrong when he puts Walker and others ahead of Lin in the hierarchy and the minute count.

This was back to Lin shooting poorly. Not just misses, but bad shots (not all of them) and bad decisions altogether, with some weird turnovers (three of them), getting blocked twice and being unable to help the Hornets turn the negative momentum, finishing with a -20 during his 23 minutes (Jefferson’s -22 was the worst on the team; Walker had -17). Lin himself said that hitting a shot early can make all the difference. Defense? He was OK, but by the standards he has set this season, this wasn’t a good game on that end too. His 4 points and 3 assists might not mean another slump, but he needs to bounce back strongly in Milwaukee. The entire team needs to.

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