The Charlotte Hornets took a big step towards the NBA playoffs with a 108-101 win over the Indiana Pacers following another big offensive night for Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, while Jeremy Lin played his part on defense, although remains inconsistent with his shooting, his Achilles heel this season with things he is responsible for.
Walker scored 33 points, cementing his spot as this team’s undisputable star and go to guy. He is averaging 24.3 points per game in his last 12 appearances, with just one of them ending with less than 20 points. He’s shooting 45.6% from the field while hitting 39.3% of his beyond the arc shots in that stretch, as the Hornets go 9-3 and cement their place as the sixth best team in the East, creating some distance between themselves and the Pacers.
It wasn’t just Walker this time, who has the entire team playing for him and setting screens for him when he’s with the ball (which is pretty much all the time). They cover for his defensive lapses, and have really found a certain identity as Walker is the guy they corral around. Batum scored 31 points on a rare good shooting night, while Walker also finished with 10 assists. Walker also shot 11-for-11 from the line, while the Hornets hit 41.9% of their 3-point attempts, as both Walker and Batum hit four each, while Frank Kaminsky hit a couple as well.
The Pacers had a 82-80 lead heading into the fourth, taking advantage of some bad transition defense by the Hornets in the late minutes of the third quarter. But a good start from Al Jefferson got the Hornets rolling. He finished with 13 points off the bench, and there doesn’t seem to be any intention of bringing him back into the lineup. He was signed almost three years ago to be the rock everyone surrounds, but Walker, for all of his flaws, has turned out into that guy, and it’s working just fine over the last month or so.
Lin finished with just 7 points in 23 minutes, although he had the highest +/- on the team along with Kaminsky at +15. He once again shot poorly (3-of-9 from the field, one three pointer) to keep the streak of good shooting game, bad shooting game going. He scored 2 points in the fourth quarter and didn’t get to see a lot of the ball, waiting in the corner for someone to notice him. His defense was fantastic with a big block on Rodney Stuckey and a big charge pickup against Monta Ellis, while drawing four more fouls out of Pacers players when he did have the ball.
As the Hornets already seemed to put the win in their hands, he was replaced by Courtney Lee. Despite less minutes than before, Lin is the guy Clifford goes with in the fourth. Lee came in with the Hornets already up by 8. He isn’t offering better offense (7.1 points per game) and his defense is good, but Lin has been fantastic on that end this season. However, with the current hierarchy being what it is, nothing but points and consistent shooting will get him more minutes, and even that isn’t going to help. He knows what he has to do in the offseason (find right team, work on his shooting), but for now, as the Hornets roll continues to push forward towards… who knows, maybe even home court advantage in one series, Lin has to do the maximum with the smaller role he’s been relegated to, whether he deserves more or not.