The Charlotte Hornets beat the Chicago Bulls 102-96 with Jeremy Lin finally taking a much more active part in occurrences on the court, but Steve Clifford needs to be consistent with his playing time and role, although it’s difficult seeing him taking away touches and playing time from Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum.
We’ll fast forward to the fourth quarter. Lin did a good job of helping the Hornets push through and cancel out the Bulls’ small lead to take a 91-88 one with five minutes to go. He got taken off and brought back with just over two minutes left, in which most of his job was helping out on defense and standing on the left corner and waiting for Walker or Batum to notice him. Walker hit a big jumper, and didn’t notice Lin in any of his possessions.
Lin finished the game with 9 points in 27 minutes. He finally looked a bit more confident and willing to take shots, hitting just 3-of-9 from the field (o-for-3 from beyond the arc). He grabbed 5 rebounds, had 3 assists and 3 steals. The Hornets, almost as always, were better (+6) during his minutes, especially when he was involved in the game. But Clifford has this offense going through Walker (17 points) and Batum (24 points). Even without Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lamb needs his touches too (10 points). Lin just doesn’t get enough time with the ball, although if he gets back to playing 27 minutes a night consistently, his shooting will improve from the sorta slump he’s in right now.
The Bulls have problems of their own, and the Hornets playing without a true center gave them problems defensively, or the fact that Tony Snell (0 points in 12 minutes) can’t be counted on offensively. The Hornets have been a problem for the Bulls in the preseason and in two of their three games already this season, which happens because they have the option of playing a big frontcourt and now maybe convince Clifford to play more and more without a post-up center. If he’s unwilling to let go of Walker who usually clogs up the play, than being without Jefferson doesn’t really hurt them all that much.
If this is a good game for Lin, it just means how bad things have been recently. Brian Roberts didn’t play at all which is a good sign for both Lin and the team. P.J. Hairston got 19 minutes and it didn’t eat away at Lin’s minutes. Maybe being good on the defensive side, even without consistency on offense, is enough for Clifford to keep him playing close to 30 minutes per game. Lin needs to start hitting shots and maybe gain some confidence back, but this might have been finally a step in the right direction.
Overall? A better game from Lin compared to the recent ones. More time on the floor, more shots and more aggressiveness from him, including some fabulous defense, especially when it comes to his timing of intercepting passes. But when he’s on the floor with Walker, it seems Clifford is comfortable relegating him to a watcher from the corner kind of role, which might work from time to time while Walker tries to do things on his own, but as we’ve written about a dozen times by now, the Hornets are better when Lin is consistently involved in the offense.