The Charlotte Hornets keep the good times rolling, even without playing too well, in a 98-95 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks, as Kemba Walker along with Cody Zeller do most of the damage on offense, while Jeremy Lin has another bad shooting night, partially making up for it with his fantastic defense.
The Hornets managed to erase a 13-point deficit against a Bucks team that’s been trying some different things with its lineups in a hope to somehow spark their way into some playoff contention this season, instead falling further away from being any kind of player in that race. The Hornets, thanks to a 28-17 fourth quarter, are now at 28-26, 7th in the East, 1.5 games ahead of the 9th placed Detroit Pistons and 2.5 games in front of the Washington Wizards.
Walker didn’t seem to lose any of his scoring momentum in the All-Star break, finishing with 25 points on 8-of-16 from the field including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc, going along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Walker hit the two free throws that sealed the game after Khris Middleton was unable to hit a shot to give the Bucks the lead again in the final seconds, but Walker had some abysmal defensive possessions and looks, once again needing his backcourt teammates to cover for him, and that lack of effort or awareness often costs the Hornets as much as they get from Walker offensively, averaging 24.6 points over the last five games.
Besides Walker for the Hornets there Zeller, scoring 23 points; Marvin Williams adding 15 and Jeremy Lamb having a good game for a change, finishing with 14 off the bench. Courtney Lee, the new arrival from the Memphis Grizzlies, still isn’t healthy enough to play, while Al Jefferson finally made his comeback, scoring six points in 23 minutes, playing his first game in almost two months in what has has been a terrible contract year.
Lin scored 4 points on 1-of-8 shooting. It did seem like one of those nights when good shots from good looks simply didn’t fall, but this is the fourth time in the last three weeks he’s had a shooting day of 20% or less from the field while attempting six shots or more. Hard to call this a slump when we’re only one game back from the break and he did shoot 5-of-9 from the field, but if these remaining 29 games are Lin’s audition for a new contract, his defense alone isn’t going to add figures to his next deal.
But it’s impossible to talk about Lin these days without mentioning his defense. He finished with 4 steals, be it by simply clinging to the man he’s marking, stepping into passing lanes (something he’s always been excellent at) or showing up at places the offense doesn’t expect him to. One thing that needs to be said about playing next to Walker or Lamb: They enable you to show how good of a team defender you really are multiple times in just a few minutes by “helping” you with their own defensive speciality of letting players blow by them.
It wasn’t a good game for Nicolas Batum on offense, shooting just 3-of-11 from the field en route to 7 points, while Frank Kaminsky was the one who got the start. The Hornets minutes allocation for everyone except for Walker and Batum is about to change in the next few games and maybe coming weeks, with Jefferson getting back to business and Lee at some point starting the next step in his career. Lin, affected or not, has to do better when it comes to shooting the ball, no matter how good his defense is.