After three straight wins the Charlotte Hornets and Steve Clifford did the expected thing, which is to forget what made them play good basketball and benched Jeremy Lin, which resulted in poor rhythm and execution from their most important player, resulting in a 98-95 loss to the Miami Heat.
Yes, Kemba Walker was back and scored 20 points with 5 rebounds and 6 assists, shooting 7-of-18 from the field with four 3-pointers. That’s pretty much what you expect from Walker. Nicolas Batum had a rare shooting day (7-of-12 from the field), scoring 21 points. Marvin Williams finished with 27 points. That should be enough for a win, right?
The problem with Walker and Batum scoring a lot of points is that it kinda stands on its own, without any effect. It can win you games, but this doesn’t push the entire team behind them and forward. While we may be repeating ourselves, Lin is the only player on this team who can do that. And when he has a bad game, for a number of reasons, the minutes of him on the floor, even as the second unit point guard, just waste away. He finished with a -14, the worst on the team, in just 16 minutes.
Lin scored just 6 points on 1-of-6 from the field, adding 3 assists. He started the game with two misses, got pulled out of the game pretty quickly, had a very long time of sitting on the bench (more than 35 minutes) because of a long halftime show and never got going in this game. Clifford pulled him out and threw him back in again. Lin looked like he wasn’t having a lot of fun, and for a player that’s usually so energetic and happy for his teammates, on the bench or on the floor, that’s kills off his entire game. Another player feeding off energy is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but without anyone looking to get him the ball in positions he likes, he did nothing worthwhile on offense.
The Heat got an impressive triple double (10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 blocks) from Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade finished with 22 points and Chris Bosh had 20. In the finish, Kemba Walker missed a big shot and then turned the ball over, allowing the Heat to come back from 3 points down in the final minute to take a 98-93 lead. Jeremy Lin was fouled attempting a three so he got a chance to make it a bit closer from the line, making 2-of-3. He missed the last free throw to give his team a chance with less than two seconds left, but the Hornets couldn’t put up another 3-pointer in time.
This wasn’t a very good game for Lin. It wasn’t a good game for the Charlotte Hornets. It’s not just on Clifford. A player is part of the equation. But this was probably the game Lin learned that the only way he gets a big and right role on this team is through other player injuries. He played a fantastic game in order to beat the best team in the Eastern conference, and all it got him was getting sent back to the bench and weird minute allocation from Clifford. Hard to expect any kind of motivation from him when that’s the reality he’s facing.