The West coast tour ends with a 101-82 win for the Charlotte Hornets against the Los Angeles Lakers. Jeremy Lin didn’t exactly shine “thanks” to an ankle injury but enjoyed watching Kobe Bryant & Byron Scott lose another game, while Marvin Williams and an aggressive and energetic Michael Kidd-Gilchrist pick up the scoring mantle.
Lin was in the lineup due to Nicolas Batum missing another game due to his toe injury. Lin finished with six points on 2-of-10 shooting, looking limited at time on both ends of the floor and maybe trying to do a bit too much against the team and coach who gave him the worst experience of his NBA career. He did finish with five assists and Steve Clifford has the sense to play him just 22 minutes. There was no need for more in such an easy game, although once again, he played good defense despite the injury.
Williams and Kidd-Gilchrist, who seems to be back without anything of a reminder that he has missed half the season, were simply too much for a clueless Lakers team that seems to lack either the motivation or knowledge on how to box out for a rebound, generally defend or play anything close to good basketball. Kobe Bryant got his points, and he was happy. That’s what he’s playing for these days anyway and so the Lakers fall to 9-41, on their way to the worst season in franchise history.
Kidd-Gilchrist, unlike Williams, doesn’t offer the Hornets range or spacing. He defends well and he attacks the rim all the time. He finished with four offensive boards, just like Williams, and scored most of his points either from the line or from five feet (or less) away from the basket. Until he develops something of a consistent jumper, even from mid-range, he isn’t going to be that difficult to defend, but on a night like this, against an opponent like this, he was just what the Hornets needed.
Walker didn’t have himself a good game. He was healthy, but he was just shooting poorly, and didn’t seem inclined to stop. He did score 12 points in 33 minutes, shooting 3-of-14 from the field, adding 7 rebounds and six assists. In four of the last five games he’s shot 30% from the field or less but like we’ve mentioned a number of times, Walker’s scoring and overall ability often has nothing to do with how well the Hornets are playing. He plays in his own zone, own pace, own way. Almost undisturbed by what’s actually going on around him, which isn’t so bad in games that seem to be over before the first half is up.
Not one of the games that you can point out about learning opportunities. It was another change for Kidd-Gilchrist to shed off some rust, although for a player who doesn’t shoot the ball from outside the paint, it’s more about how he’s physically feeling, and building up his stamina again, this time playing 28 minutes. The Hornets have a few days to rest before playing at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which might be a challenge that’s a bit big for them right now, but at least they didn’t fall flat on their face in this Western tour, going 2-2, not looking remotely competitive in the games they lost.
When Batum comes back it’s going to be a return to the bench for Lin. Deserves, undeserved, it doesn’t matter at this point. Clifford has his ideas of what his lineup should look like, and when everyone’s healthy, Lin isn’t in, despite everything he’s seen from him and the others. It’s up to Lin to not let the change in roles and game-starting time from his point of view change the way he’s playing or shake him in any way. Overall, this isn’t a bad season for him, and there’s an opportunity, if the Hornets stay healthy and don’t fall into the Kemba Walker trap too much, to still make the playoffs.