The Charlotte Hornets beat the New York Knicks 97-93 to remain perfect in the preseason, but played without an ill and resting Jeremy Lin, something that was evident in the team’s offensive fluidity and style.
No Lin in the lineup or off the bench meant no one to bring change and creativity into the game. Nicolas Batum did well with some post up points which is something that’s not part of his repertoire, while Al Jefferson, the team’s leading scorer in the game, did the same, although we’re used to seeing these kind of moves from him. Jefferson finished with 12 points. But things went a lot harder than in China or previously, and it had something to do with Lin not being there.
One thing that was easy to spot was how difficult it was creating open shots. Jeremy Lamb and Kemba Walker got some points off their dribbles with jumpers, but that’s not a consistent, trusted way to get points. Moving the ball and attacking the rim while looking for cutting players works a lot better, and doesn’t require relying on offensive rebounds to do the job. The Hornets dominated the boards with a 16-3 edge in second chance points, but it did help that Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn and Carmelo Anthony weren’t playing.
The Hornets shot just 1-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half, finishing the game with 5-of-16. We’re not going to see them launching unprecedented numbers from beyond the arc, but Lin, or someone who creates for others better than anyone else on this roster, helps creates open shots. We might be repeating this quite a lot, but the reason the Hornets signed him wasn’t just his ridiculously low contract. It was to change their stagnant ways from last season.
Frank Kaminsky scored 11 points but without 3-pointers. The Hornets didn’t use any of their starters in the second half, which gave the former Wisconsin star an opportunity to show more than just his range. He provided two big assists and a clutch offensive rebounds, and despite his size, does pretty well to protect the ball when his dribbling and driving to the basket, proving to be something of an anomaly opposing defenders struggle understanding.
We still don’t know exactly how the Hornets lineup will look once the season actually begins. We’re not alone in thinking Jeremy Lin is the best option for starting shooting guard even if that’s not his “natural” role. Based on hunches, he’ll probably be a sixth man and stay on the floor during the clutch. As long as he gets 30 or maybe more minutes per game and without being toyed with in terms of playing time and surprising punishment benchings, coming off the bench isn’t such a bad option.