The Charlotte Hornets should have lost tonight. There's no reason we shouldn't be coming up with a moral victory of some kind about how the San Antonio Spurs are historically great so of course they won. The Hornets were dead in the water when they finished the first quarter with seven points. Yes, single digits to end the first quarter in one of the franchise's worst performances for a quarter ever. The defense got sliced apart by passing and post ups. The offense was being smothered by San Antonio's title worth defense. The Spurs were dominant.
It's not easy to gameplan against an opponent for a regular season game, but San Antonio was clearly prepared for how they were going to tackle the Hornets early on. They forced anybody besides Kemba Walker to beat them, and did an incredible job of shutting down passing lanes for Nicolas Batum. However, once the second quarter came around it gave Charlotte a chance to adjust.
Steve Clifford looked to the bench early for a spark defensively. He got exactly what he wanted out of a handful of players, but the most surprising had to be Jeremy Lamb. It's been an up and down season for Lamb and recently he had fallen out of the rotation seeing five straight games without minutes. This was his chance to make a mark on the game and he made the most of it. Lamb finished with four points, but defensively he was all over the place. He crashed the boards to prevent offensive rebounds and was quick to arrive in help when he was needed. In a year where he hasn't contributed much, outside of the offense, he completely flipped the script tonight.
Of course, there was no bigger change to the game than when Jeremy Lin took the floor. He played well in his first half stint and was a part of putting Charlotte in a better situation following the single digit quarter. When the Hornets came out for the second half they were a new team.
The defense had started to figure things out in the second quarter, but it really hit it's stride in the second half. They started forcing a lot more turnovers and adjusted well to San Antonio's midrange game. Shots that were originally open were being swarmed, and it led to a huge quarter. The game reached single digits and Time Warner Cable developed a playoff atmosphere.
Charlotte continued rolling into the fourth quarter with some hot 3-point shooting, but the real star of the show was Lin. The Hornets couldn't get anything out of Walker with the Spurs defense so focused on him, and Lin stepped right up into that scoring role the Hornets needed. Big shot, followed by another big shot, and then another big shot it was his stage and Lin was the star as everybody just catered to him. He couldn't be stopped on the way to 15 of his 29 points in the final quarter. Linsanity was back in Charlotte!
As the game came to a close San Antonio had a one point lead following a LaMarcus Aldridge bucket. Once again, Lin took the ball into his hands and made the biggest shot of his season. Money. He followed that up with some clutch free throws, and some great defense on Danny Green in the closing moments of the game. After the buzzer sounded Charlotte was victorious.
This is the biggest win of the season for the Hornets. Regular season games might not matter as much as we like to believe, but it's incredibly encouraging to see Charlotte come away with a win against a team that's been historically great. If the Spurs had won it would have been their 60th...in March. That kind of stuff doesn't happen every season, and they might finish with 70. Just remember that one of those 12 losses came at the hand of a playoff bound Hornets squad.