After setting Buzz City abuzz with 35 points on excellent shooting in a win over Toronto on Thursday, Jeremy Lin heads into Washington for a game that’s a litmus test on his season. Lin will look to duplicate his breakout performance — and his penetrating style should give the Wizards problems. The Wizards are unexpectedly struggling, hindered by injuries and discord, while the Hornets are surprisingly buoyant despite similar critical injuries. Charlotte is exceeding expectations (creating a good aura in the locker room) while the Wizards — who had high expectations — see doom everywhere.
The other factor that separates these franchises going in opposite directions is bench play. With high-scoring Nicolas Batum out for Charlotte, Lin was able to play 47 minutes against the Raptors. And Lin used the opportunity to send the message that minutes are all he needs. Backcourt mate Kemba Walker said of Lin’s performance: “You can see it in the numbers. He played extremely well.” The most critical number was the playing time, something Lin has struggled to find in the last few years. Despite logging only 24.6 minutes per game this season, Lin is averaging 11.5 points per game, 2.9 assists per game and 2.8 rebounds per game. And that’s with shooting percentages that Lin watchers expect will improve with increased minutes: so far Lin’s shooting just 42.9% from the field and 30.7% from three. HORNETS v. WIZARDS, 7pm ET, December 19 (NBA TV).