Courtesy of two games against the worst team in the NBA, the Charlotte Hornets are now in place to get home court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Kemba Walker had one of his better games recently with a nice double double, but after struggling early, it was usually the lineups that included Jeremy Lin that helped the Hornets break away to make it another easy win.
Besides his no-look circus shot for the and-one, Lin had 9 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, one steal and one block in 24 minutes. Not something he (or us) are usually too happy with. And there’s also the 0 on the plus minutes. Sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story (they often don’t) and can even be misleading. The Sixers kept up with the Hornets early on, and it wasn’t until the second unit with Lin and Al Jefferson. There was an 8-0 to take the lead back and a 13-3 later on to take the 59-50 lead. With a Lin-Batum-Kaminsky-Zeller grouping (with changes next to them), the Hornets at one point made nine consecutive field goals.
Walker did the smart thing earlier in the game by not forcing the outside shot and heading to the paint. He finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists, making four three pointers while going 8-for-18 from the field, and going to the line, hitting 7-of-9 shots. Later on in the game he did some things that once again showed some poor decision making, but it was a good shooting game for him compared to more recent performances, while the Hornets defense around the perimeter keeps covering for him, allowing him to focus solely on offense.
Batum had a good game with 19 points and 7 assists, Jefferson had his moments with 13 points and some dominant moments in the post but Cody Zeller was probably the lineup’s most important player, probably early on, doing a little bit of everything. He finished with 8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals and one block. Both Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb looked potent at times while in others had the same weird, slightly out of touch look to them, combining to score 13 points. The Hornets traded Noah Vonleh to the Blazers, citing his low Basketball IQ, obviously not directly. Lamb and Kaminsky, both coming through basketball programs that usually do a good job of teaching players the basics, remain work in progress. It’s more surprising when it comes to Lamb and his understanding of the game because this isn’t his first or second year in the league.
The Hornets get a day of rest before the stretch that determines their playoff seeding begins: Cavaliers on the road, Toronto on the road and Knicks on the road in the span of four days, before Brooklyn at home. The three-game finale isn’t easier (although no back to backs except for Toronto and Knicks): At Washington and Celtics, both with something to play for, before finishing the season at home against the Orlando Magic.
It’s hard to asses things from wins against the 76ers, but this kind of defensive effort on the perimeter has to continue, while Walker, even though not perfect with his shooting, should stick to making simple things early rather than risk going cold right off the bat. Lin should be playing more than 24 minutes, but even though we’ve seen bigger and better from him than his 9-point performance, this is the kind of playmaking and leadership that makes him so important and special for the Hornets.