The Charlotte Hornets as a unit haven't played as well the past three games compared to their other games in March. They played sloppy in the loss to the Denver Nuggets, scored just seven points in the first quarter against San Antonio, and let the Brooklyn Nets take the lead after previous being up 19. Fortunately, they won two of those three games, though I'm still not not totally convinced that comeback against the Spurs happened. While the majority of the roster has hit an untimely funk on offense, Jeremy Lin has carried the offense over this stretch. Starting with 16 points against the Nuggets, he unloaded for 29 against the Spurs, and followed up with 21 against the Nets.
The numbers speak for themselves -- Lin is averaging 22 points, four rebounds, and two assists a game during this three game stretch, shooting 62.5 percent from the field and 87.5(!!!) percent from the 3-point line. He's 7-8 from behind the arc, with his only miss coming Tuesday against Brooklyn. By comparison, Lin's season averages to date are 11.8 points per game, shooting 41.6 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from the 3-point line.
From a shooting standpoint, it hasn't quite worked out as well this season as Lin would have liked. He told NBA Gametime after the win over San Antonio that he altered his shooting mechanics in the offseason to lessen the stress on his body, which may be part of the reason his shooting percentages are down. This isn't necessarily surprising, when you suddenly change the way you shoot the ball after shooting it the same way your entire life, it's going to take time to reap the intended outcomes.
While it's only been three games, Lin may be starting to break through, and it's coming at a great time. With only 11 games remaining, the Hornets would benefit from having their third leading scorer not only scoring more, but scoring efficiently. But just in the immediate, his recent play has been the catalyst for the wins against San Antonio and Brooklyn.
Charlotte was sunk against the Spurs. Clifford literally pleaded with the players to try harder, but even effort wasn't going to be enough to mount a comeback. The likes of Kemba Walker and Marvin Williams suddenly found it harder to score, and with those two struggling, San Antonio turned their attention to shutting down other scorers as well. Losing 30-7, the Hornets really had no business winning at that point (I mean seriously, did that win actually happen?).
But Lin stepped up, scoring 15 of his 29 in the fourth quarter. With Walker struggling, Lin assumed the role of go-to scorer, and knocked down a number of tough shots. Riding his play, the Hornets managed to come back, take the lead, and get away with their most improbable win of the season.
Then Tuesday, Lin essentially bailed Charlotte out after they allowed Brooklyn back in the game. 12 of his 21 points came in the second half, and he gave the Hornets back the lead twice during a small stretch in the fourth quarter when Brooklyn took the lead. While nothing looks noticeably different in his shooting form, Lin has looked far more confident shooting the ball. Sometimes all shooters need is a few to go in to get their confidence back, and that certainly looks true with Lin at the moment.
This small stretch of great play isn't surprising though -- we saw it in New York, and we've seen it at various points with other teams, and as recently as this season, when he scored 35 in a win over Toronto, and 24 against Cleveland when Walker was out. What's lacked is the consistency, and whether that's due to adjusting to new shooting mechanics, adjusting to a new team and system, or all the above and more, Lin appears, at least currently, to be finding the form that's made him exciting to watch over the years. It's certainly helped the Hornets win the past two games, and it's coming at the right time with the playoffs rapidly approaching, and seeding still very much in flux.