Nic Batum looked more like he had earlier this season and Jeremy Lin made the most of his 24 minutes, but the Hornets just ran out of gas at home against the Denver Nuggets, losing 101-93. Winners of 9-of-10 going into the game the Hornets have been surging. But after a big win against Miami, they looked flat on a night when Miami crushed the Cavaliers to keep the playoff race as tight as DeAndre Jordan at the foul line.
Even in the loss there were positive signs for the Hornets, who have been using a deep roster rotation during their streak. Jeremy Lin scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, going 2-of-2 from three. Batum shot 50% from the field and from three (5-of-10) to score 24. The main thing missing was Kemba Walker’s brilliance, which has been abundant in March. Walker made just 1-of-9 from three and got to the line just twice in 36 minutes. The home loss is disappointing coming against a non-playoff team like the Nuggets (29-41), but it’s a natural letdown after the big Heat win. The bounce back will be a clue as to Charlotte’s resilience. Head coach Steve Clifford must push his team yet manage his players’ minutes (especially Walker’s) efficiently to both maintain position and enter the playoffs with energy. Lin’s success in the backup role — especially with continued shooting efficiency — will be essential.