After losing to the Dallas Mavericks, the Charlotte Hornets stay at home, where they’ve lost only once since early February, and play the Orlando Magic, which means it’s more than likely they’ll head out to Miami with a win, before going back home for two more games. Where does Jeremy Lin fall into all of this?
There can be two conclusions from the flat performance by Lin in the 107-96 loss to the Mavs, and neither of them is positive. Either Lin didn’t feel any confidence going into the game or lost it very quickly with his three misses and mishits from the free throw line (0-for-3 from the field, 1-for-4 from the line) which made him decide to pass the ball along almost every time he touched it, or perhaps it’s something from the sidelines, or more accurately someone.
It’s already established both Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum have the green light to do everything they want. Shoot, hold on to the ball, eat up the clock. They both played 40 minutes in the loss to Dallas. Along with Marvin Williams, who sometimes is a little bit too trigger-happy in the role he’s carved out for himself, they shot 49 shots out of the team’s 76. The bench unit had just 17 field goal attempts. The ball didn’t move very well the entire game, unlike the previous wins which showcased a faster playing Hornets, looking better in transition and more than willing to spread the ball and not just focus on Walker scoring.
The thing about the Walker-Batum centric approach is that against smart teams like the Mavericks, even if they’re on a bad run, it just doesn’t work. The Hornets don’t meet a whole lot of smart teams on their way to the end of the season, which means their playoff spot is probably safe. But in the playoffs? Things get more difficult, and it’s up to coaches to make adjustments, which Clifford has shown to be lacking in especially during games, when the “sure thing” he has isn’t working.
In the 14 games before the loss to the Mavericks, Lin averaged 8.1 shots per game on 22.9 minutes a night. That comes to 12.7 shots per 36 minutes, are favorite timespan comparison unit. He hit just 35.1% of them, but things did look better for him in the last few games. He looked more confident, and even when his shot wasn’t dropping, he went to the line and attacked the rim. There was nothing of that in the loss to Dallas, which could obviously be just one of those nights that happen here and there during an 82-game season.
When the Hornets can’t run, there are ways to speed things up and try to change the pace of the game. It has a lot to do with the players handling the ball. But by turning Lin into someone who is just there to try and knock down open shots and move the ball along if he doesn’t have a clear look at the basket, the Hornets are cuffing themselves to what kind of shooting day Walker and Batum are having. It works well against teams that can’t defend like the Magic, but once again, there has to be a bigger goal than just making the playoffs and packing up for an early vacation.
We’ll see if it’s back to normal for the Hornets as they host the Magic in terms of winning and playing style, or there is something Clifford would like to change. The history of the 2015-2016 season tells us that’s not going to happen, and someone who isn’t part of the two man elite, has to either grab whatever chance he can by the hands and take it to the rim, or hope one of the two lords on the court notices him.