The Charlotte Hornets pick up a nice win in a close game with the Washington Wizards, beating them 108-104 with Jeremy Lin, who had another forgettable game hitting two huge shots in the final 35 seconds that clinched the win, while Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum get to run the team without interruption and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gets cast aside for it.
Beginning with the end, Steve Clifford put in, took him out, put him in again and took him out again. The logic behind his decisions to put Lin in the game with 2:51 left, take him out with 1:24 left, put him back in with 35 seconds left and take him out again with 29 seconds left, and then back in and out with less than three seconds in the game (!!!) is defense, all this time switching between him and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The return of everyone to full health is hurting Lin of all players.
But what did Lin do after a rough game in which he scored just two points on 1-of-3 from the field up to that point? First was his penetration and score to put the Hornets up by three points following a Kemba Walker miss (he missed again on the following possession nearly losing the lead for the Hornets), easily carving up the lane for the basket.
His second and probably biggest contribution was his three pointer from the corner, as Nicolas Batum drew a lazy double team and Lin didn’t wait for the defense to realize he was wide open to hit it with 29 seconds left in the game, giving the Hornets a 104-100 lead which they almost wasted away while Lin was on the bench, with Both Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams going 2-for-4 from the line. Walker finished the game with two free throws to seal the deal.
Lin doesn’t look happy. Doesn’t look like he understands why he’s been hit hard in terms of rotation and minutes following the Cavaliers game. Clifford wants Walker and Batum in his backcourt, while Kidd-Gilchrist has to start. It doesn’t matter than Lin is a better point guard than Walker, better playmaker than Batum and the only one who makes Kidd-Gilchrist find shots in areas he’s comfortable in (besides offensive rebounds). Clifford has his hierarchy, and while both Walker and Batum combine for 49 points (Batum was one assist short of a triple double) no one is going to question him. Is playing Lin with Batum and Kidd-Gilchrist a better option? We think so, but with things being the way they are in Charlotte, Kidd-Gilchrist coming back from his injury while Batum seems to be toe-issue-free right now means Lin is back to the bench and at best playing 23-25 minutes a night.
For the Hornets, it puts them in a good position against a broken and beaten Bulls team after a day of rest to try and make it three of four on this home stand. For Lin, it makes it less and less likely he’ll re-sign with the Hornets, who might be doing all of this because of the whole contract and cap situations heading into the offseason, setting their priorities with players they see sticking around. Is a trade possible? Lin’s contract makes everything open, but right now, besides some weak murmurs about the Milwaukee Bucks looking for a point guard, nothing is really going on.