Jeremy Lin tallied 24 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds as the Charlotte Hornets shocked the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-97 at the Time Warner Cable Arena on Wednesday.
With Kemba Walker ruled out with sore left knee, Lin excelled as the starting point guard as the Hornets returned to playoff contention with a victory that put them on the edge of a .500 record. |Box Score|
For the Cavaliers, superstars LeBron James (23 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (26 points, 5 assists) put up strong numbers but couldn’t lead the Eastern Conference champions to a sixth consecutive victory under new head coach Tyronn Lue.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who returned to the Hornets lineup last weekend, had 11 points and 13 rebounds, while three other Hornets finished in double figures in an all-round team effort.
Led by Nicolas Batum and Kidd-Gilchrist, the Hornets played lockdown defense, especially on the perimeter, which resulted in Kevin Love going 2/7 from deep, Irving 1/4 and LeBron 2/7. Kidd-Gilchrist was relentless, especially while going on-on-one against James.
At the halftime break, the Hornets faced a nine-point deficit before flipping the switch in the second half. They out-scored the Cavaliers 33-17 in the third quarter, 57-39 for the entirety of the second half, to snap a four-game losing streak to LeBron James’ squad.
Better ball movement….
With Jeremy Lin running the floor, instead of Kemba Walker, there was a lot more ball movement and the Hornets offense seemed to be in better rhythm. However, Lin put on his humble shoes and said that his team missed their leading scorer. “Kemba, honestly, is irreplaceable. We all know that. (But) we feel like if everyone can chip in a little bit, we can try to make up for his absence,” Lin said after the victory.
Lin and the Hornets also ended LeBron’s 21-game winning streak against the franchise (which dates back to his first stint with the Cavs). Charlotte’s last victory against LeBron came on February 19, 2010.
“Tonight, we were just trying to stay aggressive and take the fight to them,” Lin said, when asked about his team’s relentless fightback in the second half. Watch Lin’s post-game interview below.
At one stage, the Hornets asserted a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter before a late rally from the Cavs. “We fought hard, and the bench play in both halves was really good. We were much more balanced than we’ve been,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said after the game.
Jeremy Lin and the Hornets will next host the Miami Heat on Friday night.