The Charlotte Hornets' 104-95 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves was a good end to a three game Western Conference road trip. Winning two of three is a great result, and should give the Hornets momentum heading into Wednesday night's home game against the New York Knicks.
A few things stood out from tonight's game:
Lamb, Lin, and Batum found a groove.
The three new additions to the Hornets were a force on offense tonight, combining for 54 points with Jeremy Lin leading the way with 19 points on 6-11 shooting, Jeremy Lamb with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, and Nicolas Batum with 17 points on 6-for-11. That's balanced, and highly efficient scoring, and their combined efforts were largely the difference against the Timberwolves who showed a lot of promise at times Tuesday night.
Lamb's emergence this season has been a pleasant surprise. He's the wing scorer off the bench the Hornets have lacked, and while he's making a strong case to be in the starting lineup, if he continues to put up these numbers off the bench (and more importantly, the Hornets keep winning) keeping him with the second unit is probably the best move.
Through seven games, I feel confident is saying that Lin is the best backup point guard the Hornets have had in a long time. He's dynamic as a scorer, and it showed Tuesday. With his 3-point shot not falling, Lin focused on getting to the rim, taking high percentage shots, and drawing fouls. Lamb and he fit well together in that second unit.
What's happened to the defense?
Tuesday's game was weird. The Hornets had no business being up by one after the first quarter, not with how poor their transition defense and halfcourt defensive rotations were. The Timberwolves were able to score with ease for large stretches of that first quarter, and some of that carried over into other parts of the game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's injury was going to take a hit to the Hornets defensively, but it doesn't excuse the players from not stopping the ball in transition or rotation over in the haflcourt purpose. The Hornets were fortunate that their offense was clicking, otherwise it could have ended differently.
Zeller found his niche as a scorer.
The coaching staff have asked Cody Zeller to extend his range and be more consistent jump shooter. That's very important, but the shots haven't been falling from the outside, and Zeller hasn't looked confident shooting them. Attacking the rim has been a different story. While Zeller has not made a shot outside of 10 feet, he is shooting 66.7 percent with shots at the rim, and showcased that tonight with a number of aggressive dunks off the dribble, and cutting to the basket. Zeller is using his athleticism as the strength it has always been, and it paid of Tuesday, as he finished with 14 points on 5-8 shooting.