The Charlotte Hornets keep winning, this time 104-96 over the Brooklyn Nets to make it five in a row. Some new things, like Courtney Lee making his debut and Al Jefferson playing his best game in a very long time, and some old: Kemba Walker scoring with ease, while Jeremy Lin does a whole lot for the team, but keeps missing too many shots.
The Hornets improve to 29-26 as they solidify their place among those who’ll make the playoffs, at least from the way things are looking right now. Walker has been one of the best scorers in the league for the last six games, improving his shooting percentage in each game. He finished with 28 points in the win over the Nets, shooting 11-of-18 from the field. Over the last six games he’s averaging 25.2 points while shooting 46.4% from the field and hitting 3.3 three-pointers a game. So what if it doesn’t come from the team moving the ball or playing good basketball? The Hornets have decided that they’re riding his hot form in his own way of playing basketball no matter what. For now, it’s working.
Jefferson scored 18 points off the bench. One of the good things that happened to the Hornets this season is being less dependant on the big man’s scoring. Having a low post offensive option isn’t bad, but making that the focal point of your offense just doesn’t work in today’s NBA. It was his best offensive performance since late November, having missed about two months of basketball with his right knee issues, which also required surgery. Healthier? Great. But Jefferson, who becomes a free agent at the end of this season, needs to remain a bench option.
Courtney Lee made his debut. Some early rumors before the game suggested Clifford might ease him into things and let Jeremy Lin start next to Walker, but Clifford wants Lee in the lineup, regardless of how unfamiliar and uncomfortable he is with the new team. It showed. Lee played bad (5 points in 21 minutes) and the Hornets played bad (-8) during his minutes on the floor. When Lin played? The Hornets were winning by 10 points (second best after Nicolas Batum). Batum finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists.
Lin? Better than the previous game, scoring 11 points in 31 minutes, as Clifford had no choice but to put Lee on the floor for less minutes than planned. Lin did especially well in the second quarter, once again helping the Hornets build a lead the Nets had no chance of coming back from. Lin played the entire fourth quarter as well (came in late in the third for Lee and once again things got better) but while doing well in everything from defense to moving the ball (when he got to get involved) and pushing the tempo, his shooting just wasn’t there.
And Lin, as we’ve mentioned the word audition two or three times in the last week, has to start making shots. He’s 4-of-18 from the field in the last two games, and while the Hornets are able to live with it as long as he gets to the line and plays his fantastic defense, it’s going to cost him minutes once Lee becomes more comfortable in this offense. Clifford knows Lin is important, but prefers other players for whatever reason. Lin has to force him into keeping his minutes higher than 25 per game, but that won’t happen when he’s shooting below 40% from the field.
With an eye to the distant future, the Hornets have a long rest before playing the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite what happened in the previous game, don’t get your hopes up. It’s going to be the Walker and Batum show when they play in Cleveland. Lin? So what if the Cavaliers have a problem with him and with someone who can slice through their defense. The Hornets live and die by the shooting form of Walker, and no specific game planning and scouting is going to change it. If it’s working, don’t expect them to change it.