The losing streak is over for the Charlotte Hornets in a 107-84 win over the Atlanta Hawks, led by Kemba Walker in one of his more efficient games while Jeremy Lin had a weird shooting night but ended up doing a lot of damage whenever he stayed away from taking three pointers.
Walker scored 23 points in what Steve Clifford called the team’s most complete game of the season. The Hornets opened with a 17-2 run before the Hawks started chewing their way back, but another big run in the third quarter and start of the fourth finished off the game, with the Hornets leading by as much as 35 points at a certain point.
Walker also finished with 5 assists while shooting 9-of-13 from the field including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. The Hornets as a team were a lot more aggressive right off the bat compared to previous games, attacking the rim and not trying to make possessions longer and futile. Cody Zeller had open lanes on the way to the rim, which helped Walker and also Nicolas Batum, scoring 6 points on 2-of-5 from the field, but adding 10 assists, doing a very good job of finding open players, as the Hawks defense was at its worst most of the game.
Lin scored 19 points in 27 minutes, finishing with just one assist, 5-of-11 from the field, 1-of-6 on 3-pointers and 8-of-8 from the line. He wasn’t part of all the big runs and had a rough time getting going during his first outing on the floor, but overall, the open spaces and fast tempo were very good for his style and game. There’s nothing to complain about the minutes because he was pulled out ahead of time, as the Hornets were cruising to victory. He says is ankle is fine which is great news, and was also not too difficult to spot. His defense, adding another block to the collection, was in fine form as well.
And while we’ve been bashing Walker and also Clifford for the kind of role the coach has for his “star” player, this was probably his most efficient game this season. He didn’t try to do too much, keeping his forced contested jumpers to a minimum, and most importantly played fast. Walker is talented, and causes defenses problems when he doesn’t give them the opportunity to get set. His penetrations helped create the open lanes for Zeller, who does a great job of finishing near the rim with some momentum heading towards the basket.
As always with the Hornets and especially considering how many games they’ve lost recently, it’s about consistency and picking up where they left off, with a game against the New Orleans Pelicans coming up next. This is the mindset they need to keep, and this is the kind of basketball they need to play. While it would probably be better to see Walker play more of a shooting guard role and less as a floor manager (a few of those minutes looked good for the Hornets), if he keeps his decision making at this level and especially at this speed, everything will be easier for Batum and Lin when he comes in, not forced to rectify starting lineup problems, which has happened too much this season.