The Charlotte Hornets need to remember what got them the win in the previous game as they head into game 4: Not Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing telling Steve Clifford to play Frank Kaminsky in a way he never thought of, but Jeremy Lin being confident enough to make the most of his minutes, and get enough touches to influence the game in a way no one else on the team can.
Lin led the Hornets with 18 points in only 26 minutes, taking 16 shots. He was 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, adding 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. The Hornets were at their best during his minutes (+20), not just because of his involvement during their 18-0 run, which was really Kaminsky’s moment to shine, but more importantly during the minutes when the Heat were still fighting back. Lin was the driving force for the Hornets in those minutes, and prevented the game from being a repeat of games 1 & 2.
Now that one thing worked for Clifford, he’ll obviously go with it again. Jefferson and Kaminsky in the frontcourt to start the game, Lee and Walker in the backcourt while Marvin Williams hopes to keep up his form from the previous game, finally showing up with 12 points and 14 rebounds, including one dunk that showed he still has the athleticism we thought has crept away from him over the years. Without Batum, Williams on both ends is a crucial piece of this survivor series.
Lin isn’t in the lineup, but Clifford needs to remember what he said: Lin, Walker and Lee getting big minutes. If there’s garbage time, the good kind, it’s OK to play Lin only 26 minutes. Putting him on the floor with Cody Zeller works better for them both, even if they’re coming off the bench. There isn’t a whole lot the Hornets can do to keep surprising the Heat. It’s basically about knowing what you’re good at and what not (Kemba Walker basketball for example), and stick to what works, while being able to change it up a little bit if the Heat wise up to your act.
One thing that often happens in these playoff series when the higher seed wins the first two games at home. The lower seed wins game 3 thanks to the enthusiasm of getting back on their homecourt, but in game 4 the better team adjusts and their quality shows. The Hornets need to prove that while the Heat could be the better team with a record that doesn’t demonstrate how good they really are, their game 3 win was more than just a homecoming thing.
Expect Miami to do things differently defensively this time. Try to deny Jefferson the ball early and Kaminsky the ball earlier. More pressure on Charlotte’s ball handlers and especially Lin. The Heat are doing a good job of making the Hornets miss from three, but it’s hard to believe they’ll succeed in it like they did in game 2, holding Charlotte to just 1-for-16 from beyond the arc. Denying the Hornets the ball movement, which usually has to do with Lin, is the best they can ask for.