by Sam Perley
It’s not easy filling in for the team’s second-leading scorer, particularly during an essential do-or-die playoff game for the hometown Hornets. In what continues to be a pleasant, yet sometimes under appreciated and often unrecognized trend, Jeremy Lin stepped up for the injured Nicolas Batum and helped lead the Hornets to a 96-80 win over the Heat in Game 3, their first playoff victory in 14 years.
With Hornets head coach Steve Clifford electing to go big in his starting lineup by using veteran Al Jefferson and rookie Frank Kaminsky, much of Charlotte’s scoring in the second unit fell on the shoulders of Lin and the Harvard graduate did not disappoint, finishing with a team-high 18 points, four rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes off the bench.
Besides an outstanding performance on the offensive end, Lin was a thorn in the side of Miami point guard, Goran Dragic, for much of the night. After exploding for 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting in Game 3 (3-of-3 from three-point range), the Slovenian sharpshooter struggled to find any kind of rhythm in Charlotte, particularly against Lin. Dragic spent long, critical stretches of the game on the Heat bench with foul trouble largely because of Lin and ultimately finished the night with a rather inefficient 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting from the field.
Lin’s 18-point performance was also more than the entire Heat reserves combined (13). Justise Winslow and Dorell Wright managed just four points apiece, the most of any Miami bench player on the night. Additionally, Lin finished the game with a +17 rating, which was tied with Courtney Lee for the second-highest mark on the team. This statistic indicates that the Hornets outscored Miami by 17 points during Lin’s total time on the court over the course of the game.
Batum’s status for Game 4 on Monday night is still up in the air as he watched the entirety of Saturday night’s game from the Hornets’ sideline with a large boot on his left leg. While the Frenchman’s play-making abilities would surely be welcomed and utilized by Charlotte, safe to say the team is in remarkably good hands with Lin at the helm.