The Charlotte Hornets are having a great time, and so is Kemba Walker, having his way against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jeremy Lin? He’s doing a lot of things right, but shooting well (and subsequently scoring) isn’t one of them.
The Hornets picked up their fourth straight win with a 108-103 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, breaking away in the fourth quarter before things got close again in the finale. Lin made some big throws in the end with the Timberwolves getting closer and maybe pulling him out in the middle of the fourth quarter was a mistake, but he finished with a poor 1-of-8 from the field and 9 points, his only field goal being a three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
But we’ll get back to Lin. Walker led the Hornets with 34 points (21 in the third quarter), shooting 12-of-20 from the field, including six three-pointers. He had six assists and finished with a +8 during his minutes. The Hornets are usually better with him on the floor, but Walker’s defense often takes away a lot of the excellent offense he brings, not to mention the stagnation this team can fall into when his shot isn’t dropping, but the routine remains the same. However, when a player is this hot, there’s no use finding what’s wrong. In the recent four game win streak Walker is averaging 30.8 points on 54.1% from the field, and since February 5 is scoring 25 points through 13 games, as the Hornets go 10-3, putting them just 0.5 games behind 4th, which means home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Their lead over ninth isn’t that big, with a 2.5 game lead over the Pistons.
Al Jefferson continues to mostly do a very good job off the bench, scoring 20 points in 26 minutes and finishing with the best +/- on the team, +28. Despite having blockers like Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng, the Timberwolves found it difficult to contain the veteran big man, who had some nice individual seasons in Minnesota, although like anyone on the Timberwolves for the last 11 years, he didn’t achieve anything worthwhile.
Towns scored 28 points, Andrew Wiggins finished with 25 and Zach LaVine, besides performing a 360 dunk, had 19 points. The Timberwolves fell behind by 15 points with less than four minutes in the fourth, but a series of misses from Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and Courtney Lee cut the lead down to three points (104-101) with 15 seconds left on the clock. Lin got in with 22 remaining and hit the four free throws that sealed the deal, while a Ricky Rubio turnovers pretty much ended things for the Timberwolves, falling to 20-44. Weirdly, Walker took just two shots in the fourth, missing them both.
Lin scored 9 points in just under 23 minutes, but his shooting is a huge problem. It’s his fifth 1-of game in the last 13, and is just 30% from the field in the last four games. He was blocked twice by Dieng and Towns heading for a layup in the fourth, and although he is aggressive and isn’t afraid to take shots, be it his ankle, confidence or the much debated shooting form, the offense isn’t working. For someone who is basically a shooting guard now by the way he’s being used on the floor, Lin has to figure this part out. Not just for the Hornets to be an even better team (although more points probably won’t earn him more minutes), but for what happens next to him on his career path.