Jeremy Lin, Russell Westbrook

The Charlotte Hornets got Jeremy Lin back and he even started in the lineup instead of the injured Nicolas Batum, but for all of his and the repetitive Kemba Walker efforts, they were no match for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder cruised on to their next win with an impressive 109-90 victory that included Kevin Durant scoring 29 points and also getting into some weird thing with a courtside fan, who complained that Durant was standing too close to him during one of the free throw segments. Russell Westbrook scored 16 points, and had an easier time when Walker was guarding him than when Lin was keeping an eye on him. Westbrook used to torch Lin with ease in past meetings, but was just 4-of-15 from the field on this occasion, although he did finish with 7 assists.

Walker led the Thunder with 32 points on 10-of-24 shooting, and along with Lin brought the Hornets to being behind by two points in the third quarter. However, it felt as if the Thunder had no problem getting control back whenever they wanted. The Hornets made shots from time to time, but overall made only 34.5% of their attempts that didn’t get any support from offensive rebounding (just 7, not enough when you miss 55 field goals). Lin got carried away by the kind of basketball around, scoring 15 points including some nice jumpers early on, but was only 5-of-15 from the field, playing 34 minutes after missing two consecutive games with an ankle issue.The Hornets shouldn’t be a team that relies on shots dropping or not. Lin’s strengths are in a different kind of basketball.

As a wise man said once (or four times), the Hornets hinge on a three-man axis: Walker, who for all his flaws is still the biggest scoring threat on this team; Batum, who is key on both ends of the floor in his ability to cover for others and create open shots; and Lin, who if you have never read us, is probably the most important player on this team, and seems to be getting more and more credit through the rough streak the Hornets are having.

We’ve written about defense in the last couple of posts about the Hornets and Lin. This was once again an issue, as the Thunder had no problem getting into transition time after time with so many misses from Charlotte. The Hornets allowing 116.9 points per 100 possessions keeps up the issue of the last few games, in which it’s simply too easy to score against them. With the depth gone and Batum not playing, Lin having a good game (again) on Westbrook simply fades into the background while the paints don’t stop raining down upon them.

Right now the Hornets are playing bad basketball, and in bad basketball, the only way to do well is have one player simply try to score on his own. The injuries, with Lin before and now with Nicolas Batum and even Spencer Hawes, has gotten the Hornets into a bad place – losing eight of 11 and going onto a difficult Western road trip with a lot of questions up in the air. Relying on Walker isolations to get them out of this mini crisis isn’t even bad coaching – it’s simply giving up.

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