An OK season for Jeremy Lin just turned into something that could be a lot bigger, as he puts in possibly his best game in over two years to lead the Charlotte Hornets in 109-99 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors, filling in for the sick Nicolas Batum, and forming quite the successful backcourt partnership with Kemba Walker.
Lin finished with 35 points, easily a season high for him, shooting 13-of-22 from the field and 2-for-5 from beyond the arc. He had four assists and carried on with his blocking tradition, getting a couple of them, playing 47 minutes, more than anyone on the team. He scored 18 points in the first half and his three pointer to start overtime for the Hornets set the tone, which was mostly free throws by him and then Kemba Walker while doing an excellent job on defense.
Walker scored 27 points and finished with 7 assists, including a beautiful bounce pass to a cutting Lin, who showed his full arsenal of offense in what might have been his best game since the New York days or the first season in Houston. He attacked the basket regardless the defender, be it Lowry, Terrence Ross or Cory Joseph, all quite unsuited for slowing down Lin. They were either too small, too slow or too bad defensively to make him feel uncomfortable in any of the times he went up to score.
Lin actually was lucky the refs didn’t call him for a foul during the final possession of regulation, as he held on to Joseph’s jersey while the Raptors were trying to win the game with the clock winding down. With the Hornets screwed in a couple of games this season by the refs, and especially recently in the home loss against the Celtics, it’s not too bad catching a break for once on the officiating end. Lin helped make it an awful night for Lowry, who shot 6-of-29 from the field, including 3-of-17 from beyond the arc.
This win by the Hornets puts them in line with the rest of the best teams in the East excluding the Cleveland Cavaliers, who seem to be a cut above the rest right now, but not by much. Are the Hornets better without Batum? Probably not. He gives them shooting, passing and defense, not to mention versatility. But this was another window to glance through for Steve Clifford and the Hornets decision makers when it comes to giving Lin the ball and time on the floor. When the two things are combined, it shows he and Walker can co-exist just fine, and usually very good things happen.
P.J. Hairston gave a surprising outside shooting contribution, while Marvin Williams scored 10 points to complete the list of double-figures scorers on the team. Frank Kaminsky had a rough shooting game but finished with 3 blocks, decent rebounding and a nice assist to Lin early in the game. Who thought the Hornets would look this good without Al Jefferson and Batum? Turns out, giving the team’s most important player and best decision maker the ball isn’t too bad of a choice, only it took them a very long time to realize it.
…And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth… Lin has always been this good, he just deserves the kind of minutes and touches it takes to put on this kind of performance.