The Charlotte Hornets losing 109-101 to the Washington Wizards came with some interesting points for thoughts about the season going forward: Jeremy Lin once again getting big minutes but maybe not involved enough, and Kemba Walker showing abysmal defense against John Wall, directly influencing his offense, for the worse.
And that’s the thing about Walker: If he’s not good offensively, it’s better not having him on the floor. He finished with 6-of-18 from the field and 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. His one 3-pointer was Lin finding him wide open in the corner for the assist, with Lin doing a great job in the first half of splitting the defense and making great decisions when near the basket, be it a smart pass or finishing near the rim (or from further away). Wall scored 27 points, almost all of them by blowing by Walker or not getting too much trouble from him en route to one of his best games this season.
Nicolas Batum was back, but that didn’t stop Lin from playing 36 minutes, showing that maybe Steve Clifford has come around. The Hornets did lose this game, but this was an overall weak night offensively and inconsistent offensively, which comes from subpar defense and some weird selections in who runs plays during the third quarter. The Hornets failed to capitalize on 18 offensive rebounds, hitting only 10-of-33 from beyond the arc, which has become such a huge part of their offense, something almost unbelievable after the last two years in Charlotte.
Why did the Hornets lose this game? Falling behind too much in the third quarter, with a long stretch of Lin not touching the ball, had something to do with it. Lin did play 36 minutes, but when he’s not involved in the offense for such a long period, it’s not surprising to see him go cold in the fourth quarter. Again, Lin has been streaky and inconsistent with his shooting this season but overall he didn’t shoot too badly: Six of 13 from the field, two of those misses being blocks by Gortat and Wall.
Back to the losing part. Besides not involving the right players at the right time, defense was probably the main reason. It wasn’t just Walker getting torched by Wall throughout the entire game, and once again showing how his defensive frustrations result in a poor offensive showing and giving up on plays at some point, but also the entire concept of help defense was off on its timing and players seemed a bit confused whenever a switch was about to occur. Turning the ball over 17 times (11 by Lin, Walker and Batum), resulting in 30 points by the Wizards, didn’t help either.
The Hornets are in the thick of it, running mates to all the teams that see themselves as potential usurpers to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which represent the LeBron James Eastern dictatorship over the last few years. Lin getting substantial playing time is a huge part of all of this. Lin being involved or not will also determine how far this season goes. It’ll be interesting to see how the rotations change once Al Jefferson is back, and whether or not that affects Lin’s minutes.