In the end, with Jeremy Lin on the floor, the Charlotte Hornets couldn’t close the deal against the Boston Celtics and lost 98-93, their first after four consecutive wins. But from every loss comes an opportunity to learn something, although we’ve seen Steve Clifford waste those away time after time.
Lin played 32 minutes, which is nothing to complain about. He finished with 14 points, added two more blocks to his increasing CV of defensive highlight and most importantly, twice got the Hornets back in the game after strong starts for the Celtics against the tired/predictable Charlotte first unit. Maybe one more made shot from him here and there (it was useless counting on anyone else) would have made the difference between a win and a loss, but that’s just nitpicking, and not doing service to Lin’s great game.
The referees made sure the Hornets won’t win the game. Two terrible calls, one coming after Lin blocked Isaiah Thomas and pinned a foul on Cody Zeller and another after the Hornets (with Walker scoring) put the lead back at one point, made a great trap and forced what should have been either traveling or a jump ball being called, but resulted in the play continuing, and allowing the Celtics to draw a foul and win the game from the line.
Back to things players and coaches can actually control. Avery Bradley scored with Lin guarding him to put the Celtics up by 3 points with, and while Lin miscalculated his intervention and position on that play, it was weird seeing the help coming from the wrong side. The Hornets usually don’t make too many mistakes like that on defense, where they’re more disciplined than offensively, but maybe the Celtics hitting 3-pointers all game long and especially in the second half drew the big men out.
Walker had a bad shooting game. He did score 16 points but finished with 5-of-15 from the field. Nicolas Batum had 9-of-21 to score a team high 21 points. P.J. Hairston was just terrible every moment he played, and Marvin Williams was worse than anyone with 2 points on 1-of-8 from the field. But that’s how it works in Charlotte: Some players are allowed to be bad and stay on the court to play their usual minutes, while others have to jump through fire in order to get some sort of upgrade in their situation.
One win and one loss that comes with understandable circumstances, including officials to gripe about. Not too bad for the Hornets from their Grizzlies-Celtics weekend, and especially beneficial for Lin, who was the best and most important player for the team in both games, even if others scored more than him. If Clifford needs more proof of who his best and most influential point guard is, it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever get it. But if these two games represent the new trend, which is giving Lin the meaningful piece of the pie he deserves in terms of minutes and touches (still something to work on in that regard), then the great (14-9) start isn’t going to be slowing down anytime soon.