The Charlotte Hornets beat the Memphis Grizzlies 98-92 to stop the losing streak as Kemba Walker get hot early and late and Jeremy Lin saves his best for last in a lukewarm offensive game for him overall.
Lin finished with 13 points in 28 minutes, scoring nine of them in the fourth quarter. He also had five rebounds and three assists to go with one steal and one block. It’s probably a focal point of pride for Lin that his defense is the guaranteed thing from him regardless of the opponent and the game he’s having on offense. Offensively, partially because the ball just isn’t in his hands a lot of the time, it’s harder to tell when he’s going to have a good night.
Walker finished with 22 points but like Lin, didn’t do very well outside his very short hot streaks. The Hornets don’t want to be a team that relies on whims and players getting in the zone, and yet they’re struggling to shake off that kind of habit. P.J. Hairston surprised with 14 points and Frank Kaminsky added 10 points off the bench, although overall the Hornets won more due to their accuracy from the line (28-of-32) and not their shooting, a poor 40.6% from the field.
It was interesting to see Kemba Walker look unstoppable in the first and fourth quarters, scoring 20 of his 22 points in the start and finish, while doing nothing in between. You can say the same for Jeremy Lin, who finished the game with a rare -2 during his 28 minutes, but scored 9 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, this time not letting the free throws become something that holds him back. He was 7-for-8 in the game, six for six in the fourth quarter, including the final four points with the Hornets sent to the line intentionally.
The basketball wasn’t great for Charlotte. Walker didn’t score points that came from some fantastic ball movement most of the time. He simply hit shots, or managed to dribble himself open. That skill is useful and sometimes remarkable when a player gets hot, but as it’s been said before and will be said again: It’s fool’s gold, and relying on Walker to hit those shots on another night is asking for a loss or simply trouble. He made some big shots in this game and set up a huge three pointer for Lin (who hit another one earlier in the game), but this pure talent and randomness, not the new and improved Hornets basketball.
The return of Al Jefferson showed that he needs a lot more time before things are back to normal for him, although it might be better for Charlotte to keep him as far away from the floor as possible. He’ll look better than two points while shooting 1-of-8 from the field coming off the bench, but the future for the Hornets and also the immediate present shouldn’t be about slow, predictable, feeding to the low post kind of basketball which Jefferson pretty much forces on the team.
It’s nice to see the Hornets win, with Walker heating up at the right time and the same goes for Lin, who had another excellent defensive performance while doing well on the boards too. But this wasn’t a great game for Charlotte, who keep playing the wrong kind of basketball, and besides the win, can mostly be happy about finally stopping teams from pouring down points on them, although it might have more to do with the struggling Grizzlies, a team that’s missed its window and are now just stuck in the mud of mediocrity, knowing the best is behind them.