I have so many things to talk about in this game, but I will try and keep this brief. This is really the first game that I got very pissed at coach Clifford. Jeremy Lin was one of the most efficient players in the first half and he had the fewest minutes of ANY Hornets players in the first half. Absolutely no excuse for this! Meanwhile, Kemba was probably the WORST Hornets of the night and he had THE MOST minutes in the first half. Not only was Kemba taking a lot of shots and missing all or nearly all of them, he also couldn’t defend Caulderon at all. Clifford benches Big Al no problem due to defense, but can’t touch Kemba’s minutes. I don’t know if this is due to politics or what not, but Cliff substitutes based on defense. Well, he didn’t in this game when it came to Kemba. Lin had less than 7 minutes in the first half while Kemba had nearly 18 minutes, I believe. That’s almost three times the amount of minutes, when Lin was having one of his best games (as good as you can have with less than 7 minutes) and Kemba one of his worst. If Lin can’t get minutes in this situation, then how is Lin ever going to get minutes on the Hornets?
I hate to say it, but Lin’s minutes situation is A LOT WORSE in Hornets than it has been with Lakers or Houston. I don’t think you can even pull the politics card tonight on how Clifford limited Lin’s minutes. He went out of his way to limit Lin’s minutes. Meaning that if it was about the Front Office hand cuffing Clifford, Clifford could have gotten away with playing Lin a few more minutes in the first half and still been well within whatever supposed limits the Front Office wants to put on Lin’s minutes. I really don’t know what Clifford was thinking tonight. It doesn’t matter what he was thinking, because it’s just plain and simple awful coaching. Lin was on a roll, playing efficiently and got taken out early in the second quarter after coming in (last sub as usual, which is INSANE) with about 2 minutes to go in the first quarter.
The other HUGE complaint I have about Clifford is his favoritism of Batum. Sure, Batum is good, but Clifford treats him like some great superstar. Batum is a good catch-and-shoot player who can pass the ball every now and then, but that doesn’t mean he’s some great play-maker or the one you go to at the end of games to CREATE clutch shots. He’s the guy you pass it to at the end of games when the defense is focused on someone else (Lilllard) and he hits a wide open jumper to win the game. That’s who Batum is. But Clifford sees Batum as the one who should have the ball to make clutch plays (since Walker wasn’t in at the end of the game). Batum is NOT THAT GUY. Jeremy Lin IS that guy.
In the fourth quarter and down the stretch, Lin made play after play, including one in which he basically willed the ball in the hoop to put the Hornets up by two less than two minutes left in the game. Lin had two defenders hounding him and he just somehow got that ball to go through the hoop with the shot clock winding down, because he wanted it to go through the hoop so badly. That’s clutch genes. There are advanced stats that clearly show Lin is great in the clutch. One of the best, in fact. The stats would be even more definitive in showing that Lin is clutch if Lin was given more opportunities during clutch time. So Lin’s clutch stats highly under-represent what he can really do, which is a scary thought. It’s no coincidence that Lin’s best quarter is the 4th quarter. When the game is on the line, Lin wants the ball in his hands and teams should want him to have the ball in his hands, but, unfortunately, due to coach’s lack of perception, this hasn’t been the case to the detriment of Lin’s teams winning close games.
Tonight, with the game tied and less than a minute to go, Clifford drew up a play for his favorite boy Batum (who else, since Kemba wasn’t in). Meanwhile, Lin was wide open and clapping his hands within shouting distance of Hawes, but Hawes basically threw the ball away trying to pass it to Batum (doing what he’s told by coach Clifford), who was surrounded by Knicks jerseys and all the way on the other end of the court. This is how INSANELY Cliff want’s Batum to have the ball. Hawes didn’t want to get in trouble, so he didn’t pass it to a wide open Lin standing a few feet away from him. Instead, he gambled, trying to get it to Batum and got the ball knocked away. Meanwhile, in the Knicks’s last play, which ended up not counting, because the shot came after the buzzer, they ran a play for Melo, but Porzingas had the fortitude to see that Melo wasn’t going to be a good optoin, since he was heavily guarded. So, rather than being a screener for Melo, he improvised and got himself open to hit a wide open 3 that would have won the game if he got the shot off in time before the buzzer. But before this in-bounds play, the Knicks used Melo as a decoy and got the ball to someone else and scored easily.
It’s insane that Clifford drew up an inbounds play for Batum, period. But the fact that he didn’t seem to have other options, like Lin, is just awful coaching. I don’t think these coaches are ever going to wake up. I thought Clifford was smart, but it’s still pretty dense when it comes to really playing Jeremy Lin the right way. The sad thing is, Clifford probably knows Lin’s game more than any of Lin’s previous coaches, aside from MDA, of course. That’s pretty much all for nothing, though, because Lin’s minutes have been severely limited under Clifford.
Tonight, the Hornets nearly gave away the game, because they kept going to Batum time and time again. And time and time, Batum just put up long range bricks, wasting so many possessions. Batum ended up being “Player of the Game”, but that’s just because Lin didn’t get enough minutes. Batum played 36:21 minutes and scored 24 points, while Lin played 21 minutes and scored 17 points. But it’s not just the stats. Batum was actually one of the factors hurting the Hornets down the stretch, because all he could do was launch long range bricks and wasted so many possessions. He wasn’t the Player of the Game if you actually look beyond the surface of things. Jeremy Lin was clearly the Player of the Game. Lin had a +11 vs. Batum’s +1. In this game, +/- did tell the story. Lin was 7 of 11, while Batum was 10 of 18 from the field. If Lin had gotten 36:21 minutes, Lin would have scored a lot more than Batum did and this game would not have been close. It’s comical how the Hornets starters keep digging a whole for the Hornets bench, in particular the JL boys, to bring the Hornets back in the game. This happened vs. Minnesota and happened again tonight. How many more times does this have to happen to wake up the Hornets’s organization? Do teams actually want to win games, anymore, or are teams just too busy playing politics all the time?
The other frustrating thing is that when Batum and Lin are on the floor, Batum is the one that Clifford wants handling the ball. How many turnovers does Batum have to commit for Clifford to realize that he has no business handling the ball when Lin is on the floor? Why does every coach want to take the ball out of Lin’s hands? I thought Clifford knew Lin’s game. Well, he hasn’t shown to me that he understands Lin’s game. The Hornets would be lethal if Lin was the primary ball handler. Lin would be helping Hornets win games like he did for Knicks during Linsanity, except this time he has an even more talented squad to lead. But, of course, that’s never going to happen due to politics. But the situation is so bad in Hornets that it seems it’s rare if Lin breaks the 25 minute mark, which is crazy to think about. Lin played out of his mind tonight the ENTIRE TIME he was on the floor and ended up with only 21 minutes. It’s crazy to me how blinded by preconceptions NBA coaches/GMs/Owners are when it comes to Jeremy Lin.
If Lin and Lamb get 34+ minutes, this game would not have been close and Hornets would be winning a lot more games. Unless this happens, Hornets are going to struggle and will have to fight for a playoff spot. If Lin and Lamb got 34+ minutes, Hornets could be fighting for the 5th seed, rather than the 8th seed. Of course, all of this is difficult to prove, and this is the frustration of being a Lin fan. We’re always having to play “what if” games, because coaches are either too stupid or too much of a coward to play Jeremy Lin the right way.