The Charlotte Hornets had no problem capping off their road series with a 111-97 win over the New York Knicks that included big nights for Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson, a very big starting lineup and Jeremy Lin thrown back to the bench, which not for the first time comes after a good game for him and shakes up his confidence.
In his return to the Madison Square Garden (each one is special, no use in denying it, for him and for fans) Lin didn’t get a continuation for his performance in Toronto. Why? Steve Clifford decided he wants Marvin Williams to guard Carmelo Anthony and have an extra big man in the lineup. Who pays the price? Lin, with Frank Kaminsky getting the start next to Cody Zeller, while Walker and Courtney Lee are in the backcourt.
Hard to say the Hornets regretted their decision. Walker scored 34 points to erase his performance from the previous night and finally had a good shooting night with 7 three pointers. Kaminsky had 16 points to show his shot making skills from all over the floor. Jefferson, also coming off a few terrible games, scored 24 points in what was possibly his best game this season. Lin? Six points, five rebounds and 3 assists in 33 minutes.
Jeremy Lin might be one of the few players in the NBA who worsen their place in the team’s rotation by playing well. Nicolas Batum wasn’t back, and still Lin, following a very good game in Toronto, pretty much being the only functioning Hornets player in a difficult arena to play, lost his place in the lineup. This isn’t just a knock on the Hornets. Lin has to get over these bumps and not let Steve Clifford toying with his minutes and role shake up his confidence like that. With the Hornets winning by 14 points and Walker carrying on with his form when playing at the Madison Square Garden, all the talk about what Lin deserves and could be doing in the lineup doesn’t hold as much of a punch.
It’s not that Lin was bad. It was one of those games when his stat line wasn’t as good as his actual game. But the offense wasn’t flowing when he got the chance to lead it, and when shooting 2-for-9 from the field, all the good defense and ball movement in the world isn’t going to help you sell it was a great performance. He hit two three pointers in the game, one of them to put the Hornets back on top to end a nice run during the first half, and the other as something of a F U to James Dolan and anyone else on the Knicks to finish the game at a 14-point margin, with Lin moving his plus/minus into the positive.
After the ball simply not dropping for him in the first half, Lin was very passive in the second one, taking one shot in the third quarter and another in the fourth. It just wasn’t going to be one of those nights for him in terms of scoring. He did a good job of finding Al Jefferson in the fourth, finishing with 3 assists. He didn’t get to the line at all which shows once more it wasn’t the kind of game that Lin thrives in. Oh well. A day of rest and then four games in six days to try and finish 4th or 3rd in the East. Lin might be back in the lineup for the next one, but even with Batum out (and the Hornets might give him more time to rest), you never know what Steve Clifford is planning. It usually comes at the expense of Lin’s role or minutes.