The Charlotte Hornets losing at home isn’t a disaster, but it happening against the Denver Nuggets should be an alarming sign. What else is there to worry about? Steve Clifford blindly worshipping Kemba Walker, which obviously results in Jeremy Lin being yanked out of a game while he’s doing the best he has in a very long time.
Bottom line? The Nuggets win 101-93 with plenty of garbage time in the fourth quarter. D.J. Augustin needed only 23 minutes to score 24 points (he tends to do these things) with 8-for-11 from the field and a dagger three pointer midway through the fourth quarter that seemed to take out a lot of the sting the Hornets had in their comeback (no pun intended). Kemba Walker scored 15 points, but shot 6-of-18 from the field and 1-for-9 from beyond the arc. Yes, these days happen, especially when you’re gunning without anyone telling you to stop. But why give him 36 minutes, when his defense was just as bad? A star player can rest from time to time. This was a good opportunity.
More dry numbers? The Hornets didn’t do well on the board (giving up 14 offensive rebounds) and the Nuggets shot 50% from beyond the arc. The Nuggets didn’t shoot particularly well or play some amazing basketball in terms of spacing and ball movement. But they still led by 21 points during the third quarter, and simply took advantage of the Hornets doing things wrong on offense for the second time in a week, like in their loss to the Mavericks.
Why does Walker keep on shooting when he’s cold as ice? Nicolas Batum had a good day with 24 points on 9-of-18 from the field and five three pointers. Lin was shooting well (6-of-10, we’ll be back to that). Why does Walker have to miss eight three pointers on 11.1% from beyond the arc? Why doesn’t he get less minutes if he doesn’t stop shooting or make plays on defense? Are the Hornets that desperate to market him as their star even when they’re better when the ball gets a little bit move movement and touches from others? Or is it simply Clifford being incapable of some creativity during games, and only understanding mistakes in between them?
Either way, there was a weird moment in the fourth quarter when Lin got pulled. Yes, the Nuggets had a 14 point lead. Courtney Lee (3-for-10 from the field) got in, the Hornets made something of garbage time to narrow the lead. Nothing really happened. Lin? He had 16 points (tied for his most since February 3) while shooting 6-for-10 from the field, his best shooting percentage with at least 10 FGA since November. His second stint in the game was better than the first, and it got the Hornets within a run of making things interesting. And if it was garbage time, given Lin’s role on the team at the moment, why wasn’t he on the floor?
It wasn’t really garbage time. It just felt like it. Walker was still on the floor, and it go down to six at one point, although it never felt like Charlotte had it in them to make the complete comeback. Lately, Lin doesn’t last past six-seven minutes in the fourth. It had more to do with the Nuggets letting go mentally than the Hornets suddenly playing immensely better on both ends. It was a game that once again proves to Lin that his place isn’t with this team next season, and also tells everyone in the East how easy it’ll be to prepare for the Hornets in the playoffs. Make sure Walker has a rough night, and you’ll probably win. Clifford doesn’t know how to adjust to that.