As expected, the Charlotte Hornets didn’t just beat the Phoenix Suns but walked all over them to pick up a 126-92 win, led by Kemba Walker, helped out by Al Jefferson and not really affected through Jeremy Lin, who got his lowest minutes total since February 5 on a bad shooting game from him.
This was as easy as it gets for the Hornets, improving to 20-9, moving up to sixth in the East, although they are just one game ahead of the ninth placed Chicago Bulls, meaning it’s too early to celebrate a playoff berth. But their form is, well, in the right place. They’ve won seven of their last nine games, and with the Philadelphia 76ers being their next opponent, it’s likely to get even better, although the Sixers don’t roll out the red carpet like the Suns have been doing.
Walker scored 26 points on 9-of-16 from the field, erasing his abysmal performance from the loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The Suns made little effort of stopping him (or anyone else), as the Hornets hit 13 three-pointers on 48.1%. Walker also finished with 9 assists and along with Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams and Courtney Lee, finished with over +30 in his plus/minus. When you finish the first quarter leading by 17 points and don’t really ease up until the fourth quarter, numbers tend to be great. That’s the Suns effect this season.
Besides Walker there was Al Jefferson scoring 19 points off the bench. The Hornets aren’t moving him back to the lineup, although he’s obviously eating into Cody Zeller’s minutes, just like Lee arriving (8 points) has eaten a lot into the minutes of Lin. It was Jefferson’s highest scoring game since his return in mid-February, although he did play only 19 minutes, the least he’s gotten since his return. There was enough garbage time to not risk his fragile body.
Where does Lin fit into all of this? With 17 minutes as Steve Clifford continues to treat him as some marginal player that’s completely unimportant to this team, obviously not helping Lin out with that kind of designation, there wasn’t much Lin did. With him trying a bit harder to put himself on the scoreboard, it comes down to his shooting, which continues to be inconsistent. It wasn’t just shots not dropping. It felt like his shot selection was off as well. Lin scored 6 points (+8 while he was playing) on 1-of-7 from the field, doing most of his damage from the line. He grabbed three boards, had a couple of assists and two blocks. His defense remains excellent, but no one is suddenly going to think of him as a defensive specialist. Lin is labeled as something, only he isn’t getting the minutes or the role to give what’s expected of him, if the Hornets see him as anything more than a minutes-filler for the backcourt at all.
Any special Lin angle for the Sixers game? There’s the Mike D’Antoni one. He’s helped the team look a bit more respectable recently, and some think that if he gets a head coaching job next season, he’ll push the team to bring Lin into the fold. True or not, it might not matter. Lin isn’t going to get a lot of minutes in any case, and with his shooting constantly swinging from awful to good, his offensive impact might once again get overshadowed by everything else going on.