Charlotte Hornets

Jeremy Lin led the bench as Charlotte Hornets’ saving grace Friday

Friday at Memphis, Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin (7) Lin carried the bench and – particularly in the second quarter – the bench carried the Hornets.
Friday at Memphis, Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin (7) Lin carried the bench and – particularly in the second quarter – the bench carried the Hornets. AP

If Jeremy Lin had a joint that wasn’t wrapped in ice Friday night, then I didn’t notice.

His back, his knees, his ankles all benefiting from the inflammation-reducing power of frozen water. He looked wiped out and no doubt understood that Saturday night the Hornets would play at home against the Boston Celtics.

On Friday, Lin carried the bench and – particularly in the second quarter – the bench carried the Hornets. They started this game down 10-0. The deficit reached 20-6. And then came the most remarkably dominant comeback:

The Hornets led by five at halftime and by as much as 31 in the second half of a 123-99 blowout of a very good Grizzlies team.

There were several reasons for this turnaround. Kemba Walker was spectacular with 33 points. Nic Batum backed up a triple-double Wednesday by hitting five of eight 3-pointers Friday.

But quite possibly what Walker and Batum did wouldn’t have mattered had the bench not outscored Memphis’ reserves 34-10 in the first half.

Lin didn’t shoot all that well at 4-of-10. But he has such a knack for attacking the rim in a way that forces teams to foul him or watch the layup fall through the net every time. He causes havoc among defenses.

He finished the game with 16 points, reaching the foul line seven times. The Grizzlies had so much difficulty guarding the Hornets’ reserves that Charlotte was in the bonus for the last eight minutes of the first half.

You almost never see that.

“I knew that we had depth on this team. I feel like we’ve been able to be a spark at times,” Lin said post-game.

“I think we have a high ceiling because we just started playing together. Someone like Frank (Kaminsky, the rookie) who is just learning things. Me and J. Lamb learning to be on the same page. And Spencer (Hawes) has been a big key in terms of us adjusting to each other.

“Right now we seem to be allowing each player to do what he does best.”

The Hornets concluded after a 33-49 season they needed to be reconstructed. They searched for offense, obviously, but also for depth that Steve Clifford never coached his first two seasons in Charlotte.

The Hornets were probably easy to scout because Clifford had limited choices. It was Walker, Al Jefferson and a prayer they could make it to 95 points.

Now if someone is having an off night or there is a disadvantageous matchup, Clifford has options.

He also has explosiveness. The Hornets set a franchise record Friday by making 18 3-pointers. The previous record was 15. Nine different Hornets made at least one 3.

They are 14-8 and on a four-game winning streak. All four of the opponents in that streak – Chicago and Memphis on the road and Detroit and Miami in Charlotte – are playoff contenders. This doesn’t seem like a fluke.

They are diverse, they are dangerous and they are so much more entertaining than what pro basketball has been in Charlotte for a long time.

 
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