The Charlotte Hornets are making the most of their home stand and their weak opponents, beating the New Orleans Pelicans 122-113 with another big scoring night from Kemba Walker, while Jeremy Lin does a little bit better, although it’s still not enough to improve his standing in the rotation.
As we said, it’s going to take something very special for Steve Clifford to change what he has going for him. The Hornets have won five in a row and 11 of their last 13. Their recent run, excluding the Indiana Pacers, has come against some of the worst teams and the worst defenses in the NBA, but it takes a good team to take advantage of that. Bottom line? The Hornets are a bit closer to challenging for the 4th spot in the East than finding themselves out of the playoffs.
Seven players scored in double figures for the Hornets against the Pelicans, who have come to terms with the awful season they’re having. A combination of a head coach who knows nothing about defense (his offensive “genius” didn’t make up for that) and injuries puts them out of reach in terms of playoffs, and going 7-24 so far when playing away from home. The Hornets haven’t lost a home game since February 5 against the Miami Heat.
Walker is scorching, as we mentioned a time or two. He pretty much ignores defensive assignments (Jrue Holiday with 38 points) and the Hornets live & die by his shooting. For now? It’s working. Everyone covers for him on defense (when they can) and while Walker is a ball hog, he isn’t the kind of player who is trying to alienate his team. He’s simply on a roll, the best of his career, and he’s doing pretty much the only thing he knows, which is to keep on shooting, getting green lights all the time from Steve Clifford.
He scored 35 points on 9-of-18 from the field including five three pointers. He’s averaging 21.4 points per game this season, but has scored 30 or more in each of the last four games while shooting 52.6% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc, hitting four three pointers a game. In general the Hornets didn’t have any trouble finding open shots against the Pelicans no-defense, as Courtney Lee finished with 16, Nicolas Batum added 15, Marvin Williams with 14 and Cody Zeller completed the starting five double-figure kind of night with 13 points. Al Jefferson? He had just 5 off the bench in 18 minutes.
And our friend Lin? He scored 12 points in 22 minutes, most of them in the fourth quarter. After his jumper failed him for most of the game, he decided it’s time to attack the rim. Again, maybe it’s a matter of finding rhythm and once he gets that his shot will be back to around 42-45%, but he’s been shooting 30% from the field in March, with his 3-of-10 in this game keeping him right on track. He grabbed two rebounds, and kept on being perfect from the line with six-for-six, and is making 96.6% of his shots from the line over the last six games.
Any impressive conclusions? Nope. The Hornets have more home games coming up although against a tad more difficult teams. It’s unlikely they’ll change their formula or the way they spread their minutes, although in closer games Lin is likely to be on the floor in crucial moments instead of leaving with six minutes to go and never to return. With the Pistons, Rockets, Mavericks and Magic coming up in the next 8 days, he might have a chance or two not just to get his shooting back to where it should be, but maybe even impress when it matters the most, if Walker or Batum notice him once in a while.