Jeremy Lin, James Harden

The Charlotte Hornets lost a completely winnable game 102-95 to the Houston Rockets, as the balance between Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker continues to be a sore issue for this team, while no one being able to stop James Harden didn’t help either.

Harden scored 36 points and had a huge fourth quarter, although 16 of his points came from the line, in another one of those games that it’s simply impossible to defend him. Not because he’s god-like in his ability, but because officials, in Houston at least, make every hint of physical contact with Harden into an easy trip to the line. For someone who goes 19 times and hits 86.6% of his free throws, those are simply free points being handed out to him unfairly.

Lin finished with 13 points in 22 minutes on 4-of-7 from the field. He looked good after his slightly awkward start which lasted less than three minutes, but once again, played too little and had too many moments of watching Walker and Nicolas Batum running the game between them, while Lin, a better playmaker than the both of them, stood in the corner and watched. Maybe one day the Hornets will learn from this repeating mistake, but right now, with December almost at an end, it’s still a big part of their dysfunctional offense on its bad days, like this one, in which they shot just 34.9% from the field while launching 41 3-pointers. Spreading the floor is nice, but a blind barrage from deep isn’t the answer to everything.

Walker and Batum helped keep the shooting percentages low. Walker  shot 3-of-10 from the field in 41 minutes to go with 4 turnovers. He did make 6 of his 6 free throw attempts, but so much time was wasted on his dribbling to eat up the clock for no reason. Batum didn’t do much better, shooting 3-of-11 from the field. Walker led the team with 14 points, but he led them in the wrong direction most of the time.

This wasn’t a perfect game for Lin. He didn’t last two minutes after heading into the game before picking up three quick fouls (courtesy of playing in Houston, where every breath on Harden is called for a foul) which ruined the Hornets plans and their ability to change the game with the bench. When Lin came in for a second time he was much better, but he did miss three crucial free throws in the final quarter. He’s so much better than the 76.5% he’s shooting from the line this season.

So yes, this wasn’t the perfect performance for Lin, as those who love highlights are probably replaying the moment Harden broke his ankles with some fancy dribbling. But it was another game in which he showed to the ignoring Steve Clifford that putting all your eggs in the Walker basket without being willing to change things up is simply asking for trouble. The Hornets have now lost four of their last five, and the sooner they realize it’s time to get off the Kemba Walker train and start giving Lin more minutes, touches and responsibility, the sooner they’ll get back to the momentum they were riding less than two weeks ago.

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