Sometimes, it shots just don’t fall. Jeremy Lin played well in the Charlotte Hornets 106-94 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, especially on defense, but sometimes efforts on one end don’t result in benefits on the other side.
And it’s not that Lin took bad shots. He was mostly open or at least without anyone breathing down his neck or with a hand in his face. He was just 2-of-9 from the field for 5 points, adding 3 assists, including the play of the game which was a long alley oop pass to Jeremy Lamb, who is scorching at the moment, especially when Lin is playing next to him, and Lin is the one who gets to run the offense, while Lamb moves around and looks for ways to get open.
Lin playing 20 minutes remains a sore point, but you won’t find anyone complaining when a 12 point win over the soft Blazers doesn’t really tell the story of a blowout victory, with the Hornets leading by 26 points by halftime. Lin had his +/- ruined by the garbage time basketball the Hornets played in the fourth quarter, but was a major part of the big run that made the lead unreachable for the Blazers, even if it doesn’t show up in the box score. Sometimes, players influence a game and an offense just by being there and being involved. Lin is one of those guys.
The Hornets had an easy time with some favorable mismatches, as Nicolas Batum showed that his offensive problems from last season (while playing for Portland) are no longer part of his game. He scored 33 points and is averaging 17.7 per game this season on 46.9% shooting, hitting 5-of-10 three pointers in the win. Al Jefferson destroyed an unidentified Plumlee brother with 29 points on 13-of-17 from the field, in what was probably his best and easiest game so far this season.
Lamb scored 13 points in 28 minutes. He is at his best when playing off the ball, something Steve Clifford hasn’t learned yet or hasn’t been able to instill into Lamb’s programming. He’s a very good shooter and a difficult player to keep up with. The problem is that he’s not such a great off-dribble shooter and insignificant as a passer and finding open lanes for others. We see the same struggles for Kemba Walker this season, who refuses to learn from the changes around him. He scored 14 points, but is shooting just 38.9% from the field.
Seven time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander once said you can learn a lot more from a loss than a win, and it’s certainly true about this game. The Hornets didn’t do anything special against Portland. They played simple and smart, making the most of an awful defensive team and didn’t try to force the wrong things. A lot of open and easy shots without some unique ball movement and basketball. We love analysing Lin and his teammates and what they could do better almost every time, but sometimes, the less said the better – the Hornets were so much better, it doesn’t leave much room for over analysis. Maybe this as the final word: It’s alright to have these games when things don’t work out. It’s better to have them when your team is having a very easy time.