Jeremy Lin, entrusted with the starting role, outdid expectations with a season-best 35 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks as the Charlotte Hornets beat the Toronto Raptors 109-99 Thursday night in an overtime nail-biter at the Time Warner Cable Arena.
Lin (13-22 FG, 7-9 FT) made a clutch three-pointer early in OT before sinking a few timely free throws to give the home team a comforting five-point lead with less than a minute remaining. Credit to Kemba Walker (27 points) and PJ Hairston (14 points) who also hit clutch free throws as the Hornets secured a famous victory. In all, Lin played a whopping 47 minutes – the most he has ever played in a game since his debut in 2011.
The Raptors went on a 25-13 fourth quarter run but Hornets did enough in OT to secure a victory and consolidate their spot in the bottom half of the grueling Eastern Conference. |Final Box Score|
Jeremy Lin bounced back from a poor outing a night ago in Orlando when he managed only 8 points from 29 minutes. In the absence of Nicolas Batum, Hornets coach Steve Clifford challenged Lin to shine as a starting two-guard – and Lin not only outshone everyone else on the floor but secured his starting spot for the rest of the season.
“That’s what I wanted to do for a long time,” an elated Lin said after the game. “I saw how much (being the playmaker) took out of Al (Jefferson) and Kemba. But I couldn’t have done it without (Walker) and he couldn’t have done it without me. He helps me out just as much as I hope I can help him.”
Lin’s exploits began early in the first quarter when he hit a sweet 18-foot jump shot. Immediately, there was a feeling that Lin had the hot hand – and warranted the right to shoot away. Lin had the blessings of his coach. While Kemba Walker continued to run point, Lin executed the pick-and-roll to perfection as the likes of Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams enjoyed good looks. Lin sunk his first triple with 5:01 left in the game and followed it up with a smooth layup to give his team an early 21-15 lead.
The second quarter is when Lin began taking over the game. After making a 19-foot jumper to begin the quarter, Lin dropped sweet dimes as Spencer Hawes and Jeremy Lamb sunk deep shots. Lin’s ferocity on defense was once again on display as he blocked Kyle Lowry’s layup attempt and followed it up with a layup of his own as the Hornets pulled away with a 39-29 lead.
Jeremy Lin Playing Lockdown Defense
By the end of the first half, Lin already had 18 points and 3 assists, including that monstrous block on Lowry, as the Hornets secured a lead of 56-44. Lin had a relatively slow start to the third, missing his first two three-point attempts before a trademark driving layup to give his team a 70-56 lead. With Lin guarding Kyle Lowry, the Raptor guard had the worst shooting night of his career (see tweet below).
When Lin was subbed out late in the third, the Raptors began their comeback push. Going into the fourth quarter, Toronto reduced the deficit to 77-65 owing to Demar Derozan’s hot streak.
Jeremy Lin continued to play lockdown defense in the fourth quarter, drawing fouls on James Johnson and Luis Scola before sinking a few free throws to give his team an 81-71 advantage. With 5:39 left in the game, Lin once again blocked Kyle Lowry’s shot as the Charlotte crowd gave him a thunderous ovation. With 4:43 left, Lin made a 19-foot jumper to give Hornets an 87-75 lead, taking his tally of points to 28.
Jeremy Lin fell 3 points shy of his career-high 38 points. But his hustle on defense and shooting efficiency against Raptors, it’s safe to say this was Lin’s most productive game ever.