The Charlotte Hornets faced off against the Los Angeles Clippers early this morning, playing their game all the way over in China. Yao Ming was front row for the affair that featured fellow Chinese basketball player, Hornets guard Jeremy Lin.
Lin started out the game on absolute fire early, making an appearance in the starting lineup and sinking his first four shots for Charlotte's first ten points. Al Jefferson and Nicolas Batum also got going in the first, adding six and five respectively for the Hornets early.
Jeremy Lamb and the rest of the bench had a lot harder time in the first half. After hitting his first three spotting up, Lamb struggled to create for himself off the dribble, going one for seven in the first half from the field. Spencer Hawes (of all people) and Marvin Williams led the bench in scoring and helped the Hornets keep their lead in the first half. Williams was especially impressive, scoring eight points including two shots from deep.
The third quarter was huge for the Hornets as they outscored the Clippers 29 to eight and took an 85-59 lead heading into the fourth. The quarter was really sloppy for both teams, as players from both sides weren't moving the ball as well and doing things like trying to draw fouls from the other team. The Hornets kept firing away, however, and through the third quarter they were a scorching 11-for-20 from deep.
The fourth quarter, as expected, was really ho hum. Both teams sent out their bench units, traded bad baskets and turnovers, and the Hornets prevailed over the Clippers 113-71. Al Jefferson led the way with 17 points and six rebounds. Nic Batum had a nice game, putting in 14 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in just 23 minutes of action.
Here are some big picture notes to take away:
- The offense was cooking with the starting unit. The spacing was extremely nice with shooters like Nic Batum and Lin on the floor together. I'm sure Kemba Walker appreciated the extra space to work on ball screens with all the new spacing as opposed to last year.
- The offense has changed and shifted away from the old Al Jefferson post ups. They still run sets for Big Al every once in a while, but for the most part, it is a very pick and roll/handoff centered offense with bigs rolling to the rim and to open spaces. You can tell that Jefferson has lost a considerable amount of weight, which bodes well for him in a system like this that will play fast and get him moving a lot. He was shooting and hitting a few elbow jumpers as well, an area that he will be able to roll to and get open in this type of system. He had a hard time posting up against DeAndre Jordan, which isn't surprising seeing as Jordan is one of the best defensive centers in the league. His length and size bothered Big Al, and with the new weight lost, he might not be as productive if he isn't able to use his big body like he used to.
- In a league that values floor spacing and playmaking, the starting lineup of Kemba/Lin/Batum on the perimeter was extremely smooth. The ball moved from side to side and each guy is able to make plays in the pick and roll; either finding the open guy when the help commits one way or putting the ball in the bucket.
- Lin had to sit in the last part of the first half due to foul trouble, but I also wonder if Clifford is going to start him and then have him lead the second unit the rest of the way. The bench didn't flow nearly as nicely as the starters did as they looked confused with their reads in this new motion offense. With how inconsistent Lamb can be at times, having someone like Lin out there to keep the Hornets afloat offensively could be beneficial.
- Defense is going to be a work in a progress, something we knew was going to be the case once Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was set to miss the season. The Hornets have lots of small guards that are going to be playing both guard spots, and they all struggled to navigate through screens and close out on the Clippers perimeter players. J.J. Redick struggled to find his shot, but the majority of his looks were open. If the Clippers were playing with their normal energy and tenacity, I'm sure that this game would've been a lot closer.