The Charlotte Hornets produced their worst game of the season, losing 102-73 to the Utah Jazz, ending a three game win-streak as Jeremy Lin returned to the bench and hurt his ankle, Nicolas Batum returned to the lineup and didn’t do anything good while Kemba Walker scored, but that didn’t sweep the team with him towards some sort of comeback.
Call it revenge if you will after the Jazz lost a double overtime game in Charlotte against the Hornets, which ended up being Walker’s career and franchise night. This time it looked completely different. Not dramatic, not close, with the Jazz cutting loose in the second quarter and never looking back, led by Rodney Hood scoring 24 points and Gordon Hayward helping out with 22.
Walker scored 15 points in 30 minutes and was the only player other than Brian Roberts to finish with more than 50% from the field, as the Hornets were held to just 36.8% from the field. Batum, missing three games, was thrust back right into the lineup despite looking bad in previous games as well (0 points in the loss against the Thunder, leaving it early). He finished with 6 points on 2-of-9 from the field and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Lin looked uncomfortable back in the second unit role. In 17 minutes before his third-quarter ankle injury, he seemed like he was out of place. He shot just 2-of-8 from the field to finish with 4 points, in the most out of sync and confused performance we’ve seen from him this season. Troy Daniels wasn’t firing on all cylinders this time (just 2-of-7 from the field) and overall the Hornets looked like a team that can’t wait to get this visit to Salt Lake City over with, although they still have two more road games on this trip to endure.
The issue with Clifford here? He had a good thing going for him in three wins which included some very good basketball at times with the Lin-Walker backcourt clicking quite well when Walker wasn’t trying to take over on his own. Yes, in his cue card it’s written that Lin is a bench player and Batum should start. But this reminds me of Clifford saying he’ll plug Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the lineup the moment he returns. It’s as if he has no feel for the game or his team, unwilling to change or shift from the pre written format despite everything on the basketball court telling him otherwise.
What’s done is done and what’s lost is lost. The Hornets need to hope Lin isn’t injured too badly (and even if he isn’t, maybe giving his ankle another game of rest isn’t too bad of an idea) because losing him can’t be countered by getting Jeremy Lamb back. It’ll mean Walker and Batum on the floor together for almost an entire game, and with no one to bring some sort of energy and push (although it didn’t work this time) off the bench.
The Hornets do get a day off before their game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday Night, which is followed by playing against the Los Angeles Lakers. Even with Lin getting two wins in these games is going to be difficult (because of the Portland factor), but the Hornets don’t have an easy time back home as well after they come back. Not losing to the Lakers, regardless of who is healthy and who isn’t, is a must.