The Charlotte Hornets beat the Orlando Magic 117-103 to close out a fantastic regular season by their standards, starting Jeremy Lin instead of the injured Nicolas Batum and getting another fine performance from Al Jefferson off the bench, although all of that didn’t help them move up the Eastern Conference Standings, if they were even looking to do that.
The Hornets will play the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Not sure that playing the Atlanta Hawks was a better option. In any case, the Hornets started strong with some excellent outside shooting, including a couple of three pointers by Lin, who finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 21 minutes, spending time with the first and second unit as well before exiting with 5:48 to go in the third quarter and never coming back.
It was a solid performance from Lin but nothing to write home about. It’s a game that didn’t make much of a difference, and he simply took what was handed to him, without really trying to take over, maybe not even seeing the need for it. These weren’t the Spurs or Cavaliers after all. The Hornets played the rest of the starters even less, as Kemba Walker had just 2 points before leaving the game logging just 18 minutes. Courtney Lee had 14 minutes, Cody Zeller had 13 and Marvin Williams played just 10 of them.
The player who stood out was Jefferson, scoring 26 points in another game of abusing the opponents down low. The best way to utilize defensive liabilities with post up abilities these days is put them in the second unit. With Jefferson saying he finally feels like he has his legs under him again. Putting him in the right lineups during the postseason can be extremely beneficial for the Hornets, but it means Clifford should get a bit more creative, not one of this stronger qualities, although he does surprise us by flashing it once in a blue moon.
At the Hive hinted that Clifford possibly wanted to lose the game by sticking to his bench players, and pretty much playing a third string team in the closing minutes which initially looked bad, but ended up winning the game for them after the Magic were able to cut the lead down to two points. The combination of Jorge Gutierrez, Aaron Harrison, Troy Daniels, Spencer Hawes and Tyler Hansbrough isn’t going to feature for a second in the playoffs, but it got the job done this time.
Heading into the playoffs, Lin doesn’t need to cross his fingers for a Batum injury or something like that in order to get more minutes. That doesn’t help anyone on a team-level. But he does need Clifford to finally understand how good it is for this team to not just play Lin big minutes, but use him in a pivotal role. We’ve been screaming this all season long, so it doesn’t hurt doing it one more time as we end the coverage of the regular season when it comes to the Hornets, and now off to three days of rest before the series against the Miami Heat begins.