I only got to watch this game in spurts, but I just wanted to make a few quick points. Kemba Walker may be getting a lot of glory for his 34 point performance and his last 11 points, but it was Jeremy Lin who really saved the Hornets. I’m not just being a Lin fan trying to re-write history either. I’m also not trying to hate on Walker. I actually like Walker and don’t mean to cut down Walker in any way. All I care about is communicating the truth as I see it.
Jeremy Lin had 21 points on only 6 of 10 shooting, which is pretty ridiculous. He was also 8 for 9 from the free throw line and had several beautiful And-1s. +17, 3 assists, 3 TOs, 2 steals in a little over 33.5 minutes. Walker finished with 34 points on 13-28 shooting, 6-7 FT, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO, 3 steas, 2 blocks in a little over 40 minutes.
Best Lin highlight video for the game:
To me, this game would have been an easy win for the Heat if Lin hadn’t checked in early in the 1st quarter to, once again, save the “starters” from digging a huge hole. With Hornets down 13 to 4 with 6:10 to go in the 1st quarter, Jeremy Lin draws the second quick foul on Wade. This was critical, because if that hadn’t happened the Heat would have built on their early double-digit lead and this game would have probably been over by the first half. On top of this, Lin lead a 23-6 run to give the Hornets a lead after being down by double-digits.
For the night Lin was a +17, which is the second highest on the team and Kemba Walker was a -7. In fact, just to emphasize how much Walker is not the hero of the night, Lee managed to log a +10, even though he had nearly the same minutes as Walker. Lee played 41:35 minutes and Walker played 40:15 minutes. Again, my intent is not to take down Walker, because I was cheering for him to make all his shots at the end. It’s because I think there’s been a very false narrative that Walker lead the win. It’s not surprising that Walker got Player of the Game. He did score 34 points. But he actually hurt the Hornets for most of the game, but managed to redeem himself in the end.
Lin on the contrary, lead the Hornets in fighting off what otherwise could have been a big deficit in the first half. In fact, when Lin sat, the Hornets lost a big lead. And then Lin helped to build a lead again late in the 3rd, but for some crazy reason, Cliff inserted Kemba back in with only seconds to go in the 3rd quarter after taking Walker out only a few minutes prior to that. When Cliff did that, I thought the Hornets were going to lose. When Kemba came in near the end of the 3rd quarter, the Hornets had an 8 point lead, led by Jeremy Lin, of course. Hornets looked like they were about to build on that lead with Lin leading the offense, but when Kemba came back in, Lin went back to playing off the ball and the Heat came back to nearly tie the game. After that, it was a close game all the way to the end.
Had Lin gotten to lead the offense in the beginning of the 4th like he usually does coming off the bench, while Kemba sits, the Hornets could have widened their lead and the game would not have been so close. So Cliff fucked up big time by prematurely re-inserting Kemba back in when the Hornets built back their lead with Kemba sitting for a short stretch in the 3rd. So, even though Kemba redeemed himself by hitting shot after shot (11 of the Hornet’s last 13 points) towards the end of the 4th quarter, it wouldn’t have come to that if Kemba hadn’t come in prematurely at the end of the 3rd quarter.
I hate it when people can’t see through the surface of things, so I just had to get that off my chest. Again, I’m not trying to hate on Kemba and am not being a petty Lin fan always trying to give Lin credit. The reason why I felt the need to point out who the real savior of the game was is because if we buy into the false narrative, then we’ll never know what actually worked. The truth is Cliff and Kemba nearly lost this game for the Hornets. Cliff by making an awful, asinine substitution decision and Kemba by being Kemba. I swear, when Kemba kept hitting his shots, I thought for sure the Hornets would lose, because it would become the iso-Kemba show again. But good thing Kemba managed to continue making his shots. I was praying that he make his shots, because I knew that if he didn’t it would have been a disaster, since Hornets were clearly playing the iso-Kemba game late in the 4th. If Lee hadn’t grabbed that critical rebound on a Kemba missed three-pointer, the Hornets might not have won this one. In fact, I thought the Hornets would end up losing the game at the beginning of the 4th quarter, due to Cliff insanely bringing Kemba back in at the end of the 3rd quarter when the Hornets were doing so well with Kemba sitting. Throughout the entire 4th quarter, I was expecting the Hornets to lose the game. It wasn’t until Lee grabbed that missed shot from Kemba that I didn’t think the Hornets were going to lose.
Cliff and Kemba got away with one tonight and Kemba managed to get the Player of the Game. So Cliff and the Hornets organization are happy. Because if Kemba hadn’t shot the lights out at the end, then they would have had no choice but to give the POG to Jeremy Lin. No one in the front office wants that, because they want to keep Lin next season and don’t want to raise his profile. Fortunately for Lin, these playoff games get a lot of national attention, so people outside of Charlotte know who the real savior is and Lin fans aren’t left looking like we’re the insane ones because we know the truth about Jeremy Lin. The truth is, even though Lin hasn’t won Player of the Game the entire series, Lin is clearly the MVP for the Hornets so far in the this series. Check out this stat on Twitter that should make it abundantly clear that Lin is the MVP if you’re not brain-dead but are somehow still in doubt:
Without Jeremy Lin the Hornets would be swept. No question! Lin has put this team on his back time and time again in big games (Spurs, Cavs, Raptors, Celtics, Heat, etc.). Hopefully, more and more people are starting to see this. If Lin continues doing what he has been doing, he’ll have his pick in free agency. The GMs and coaches that are perceptive enough to recognize that Jeremy Lin is a top 2-way point guard in the league is going to reap the rewards come free agency. I hope that it’s going to be Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson of the Nets.
One last note, I still don’t think the Hornets will win this series, because Lin keeps having to save them and Lin isn’t being put in an advantageous position to do so. It is tough having to come off the bench to save your team time and time again. It’s much easier doing it from the starting lineup, because when you do it from the bench, you’re forced to play for long stretches without rest . That’s why Lin was so tired late in the 4th quarter, as he mentioned in his post game press conference. Unlike most offensively talented players, Lin also plays great defense and gives 100 percent effort on defense, which is extremely tiring. By having Lin come off the bench, Cliff forces Lin to have to play without rest for long stretches, which is a really bad idea and that’s why I don’t think the Hornets will win.
If Hornets do manage to win, though, then I think they have a good shot at going to the Eastern Conference Finals. I actually think the Heat are tougher than whichever team the Hornets face in the second round. Lin also plays well against the Raptors (I haven’t focused enough on Pacers to know how well Lin matches up with them, but I’m sure it’s not a problem either), so I really want the Hornets to make it to the next round so Lin can really showcase himself. I mean, if Lin can do what he has been doing against the Heat, which is a team Lin has done poorly against, then imagine what Lin can do in the second round! So I really hope that somehow Cliff doesn’t mess up too much and the Hornets stumble onto the second round, because things will really start to get interesting then.