The Charlotte Hornets, Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb; everyone on this team is struggling, and the necessity of Jeremy Lin through the two games he has missed with an ankle injury has never been greater.
It’s not quite clear whether Lin is going to play in the Hornets home game against the Thunder on Saturday evening. He’s not the only rotation player missing, but his absence on both ends of the floor has hit the sliding Hornets the hardest. If Steve Clifford needed any more signs that Lin might be his most important player and needs more credit and touches, the lack of intelligence, not to mention defense, displayed over the last two games had to have been the wake up call he needed. Too bad for him he can’t really control when Lin gets back to the floor.
Our last post about Lin had a thing or two to do with the Hornets defense. Clifford spoke about missing him on that end of the floor. The numbers in the last two games say it all. Remember, with Lin playing this season, the Hornets are allowing 97.1 points per 100 possessions. In the last two games, in losses to the Raptors and Clippers? They allowed 131.9 per 100 possessions against the Clippers, 119.9 per 100 possessions against the Raptors. Complete breakdown.
And what is the Hornets defense? When Walker is on the floor, a lot of it has to do with scrambling to make up for the holes he creates. Without him? The second unit without Lin just looks bad. Jeremy Lamb has no one to find him in his spots, and gives nothing on defense. He did score 19 points in that defense-less game against the Clippers, but gave the Hornets nothing against Toronto, shooting 2-of-10 from the field to score 5 points.
Walker? In the Wild Wild West game against the Clippers he thrived, scoring 29 points. He looked awful against Toronto with 7-of-21 from the field and 18 points. Walker exists in a vacuum. He does his own thing, regardless of what’s happening on the floor. He sometimes gets hot, a lot of the times he doesn’t. This isn’t someone a team can count on to lead them. Nicolas Batum seemed to need a helping hand in directing this team. He didn’t do badly against the Clippers (on offense at least), but his 5 turnovers against Toronto when so much relies on him just cost the team too much.
All of this is coming and happening at a very bad time. Not just two losses in a row, but five in their last seven and seven from their last 10, all beginning with that half exhaustion, half screwed by the refs loss to the Boston Celtics, which threw this team out of rhythm. What’s coming is worse: Four games on the road following their home game against the Thunder, including one against the Warriors. The Hornets haven’t won away from home since December 11, and could potentially enter a kind of spin that ruins a season, especially in a much tighter, more difficult East than before.