The Charlotte Hornets are in direct competition for the number 3 and 4 seeds in the Eastern conference following a 109-106 win over the Miami Heat, led by Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson in scoring, but turning to Jeremy Lin to win the game by being clutch from the free throw line.
Both Walker and Jefferson scored 21 points in a key away win for the Hornets in Miami. They fell behind by 15 points in the first half by closed it on a 24-7 run and from early in the third quarter took control of the game, fending off the Heat whenever they got close. The Heat did their homework and didn’t allow Marvin Williams open looks, while Walker and Nicolas Batum combined to shoot 14-of-37 from the field (but did make six three pointers) and score 40 points. Courtney Lee scored 13 for Hornets. The Hornets are still sixth in the East but three games above the Pacers (7th). They’re tied with the Heat and Celtics at 39-29, splitting the 4-5-6 seeding. Third are the Hawks, 0.5 games ahead. Charlotte have just one more game this season against these teams, playing in Boston on April 11.
The Heat were led by Luol Deng with 22 points and got plenty from their bench as Hassan Whiteside (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Josh Richardson (18 points) did very well. Overall Miami shot 53.3% from the field, but turnovers (15 of them) and a terrible shooting night for Wade helped bring the Hornets back into the game, with Walker getting hot in the second quarter, taking advantage of some favorable mismatches. Jefferson did most of his damage in the second half.
Was this a good game for Lin? No. He shot badly, his only made field goal coming in the first quarter from 11 feet. He missed two layups (blocked on one of them) as the Heat (as others are picking up on) did a good job of denying him the chance to drive to the basket. He finished with 6 points in 17 minutes, grabbing 3 rebounds and adding one assists, turning the ball over three times. But at least he has his free throws, the most consistent part of his games through the ups and downs he’s been through this season.
Lin came on with the Hornets leading by three points and 14 seconds on the clock. Dwyane Wade hit a shot, and then started the foul game. Lin was sent to the line, hitting a couple of shots. A player who didn’t play a second in the fourth quarter, who didn’t take a single free throw in the game before that, and has been ice cold (not in a good way) when shooting the ball most of the time since being shoved into his current role. But ice cold is a good thing too. Lin had no problem hitting the two FTs and then again with three seconds left, after another Wade basket. Wade (3-for-13 from the field in the game) missed a three pointer that would have sent the game to overtime.
So good or bad for Lin, this game? Probably not a good one. It’s the same ol’, same ol’. Good defense, not too many touches, misses most of his shots, isn’t involved enough, doesn’t play enough, doesn’t do enough with the ball. The Hornets are moving on from him when he doesn’t contribute to them offensively. Does it matter that he isn’t put in a position and role that he can be more useful from? When the team is doing so well regardless of his FG%, it’s on Lin to step up his game, and not for the Hornets to keep shuffling things to accommodate him. But at least he’s appreciated for one thing still by this team, not for the first time this season not letting a bad game get to him “clutchness” and seal the deal from the line.