Spurs stung as Jeremy Lin leads Hornets fightback
LOS ANGELES, USA – Jeremy Lin inspired a stunning fightback as the Charlotte Hornets rallied from a 23-point deficit to upset the San Antonio Spurs 91-88 on Monday, March 21 (Tuesday, March 22 in Manila).
Lin drained 29 points including 4 3-pointers as the Hornets shocked the in-form Spurs, who were brought crashing back down to earth two days after beating the all-conquering Golden State Warriors.
Lin's points haul included a superb fallaway jump shot with 48.4 seconds left which gave the Hornets the lead at 89-88 before adding two free throws with 18.3 seconds on the clock to complete the scoring.
"He's a very committed player," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "He comes in and he works so hard. You're going to get his best effort every night.
"He obviously came in and picked our energy up tonight, in both halves. He was the catalyst."
The victory saw the Hornets improve to 40-30, easing the sting of a disappointing home defeat to the Denver Nuggets at the weekend.
"We just turned it up," Lin said. "I can't even think, man. We just played hard. I'm just thankful to God. I've been struggling so much and we lost one the other night that we felt we shouldn't have lost, so to come out here and get this win is a huge boost for us."
'Please try harder'
The Spurs looked to be racing away to a blowout win after leading 28-7 after the first quarter.
But Lin added 12 points in the second to chip away at the Spurs' lead. Charlotte then took the lead for the first time at 75-74 with 9:10 remaining after a Lin three-pointer.
Clifford joked that he had given his team candid advice as he attempted to rally them after their disastrous first quarter.
"I told them, 'Please try harder, please,'" Clifford said. "'I'm begging you, please. I know you make more money than me, I know most of you could get me fired. I'm just saying please, so I can sleep on the plane tonight, please just try a little bit harder.'"
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich blamed the defeat for a sloppy second quarter when the bench failed to ram home the advantage built up in the first quarter.
"In the second quarter, I thought our second team was basically out to lunch," Popovich said. "It was one-on-one, turnovers, gave up 29 points in the quarter. That sealed the fate right there."
Dubs bounce back
While the Spurs slumped, Golden State recovered from their weekend defeat with a 109-104 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Stephen Curry had a modest night by his standards, but still contributed 19 points as the Warriors moved to 63-7 – just 10 wins away from setting a new record for the best regular season in NBA history.
Draymond Green was the star for the Warriors, scoring 24 points as the visitors overturned a 3-point deficit with 6 minutes remaining to avoid suffering their first back-to-back losses of the season.
Elsewhere Monday, LeBron James notched the 41st triple double of his career as the Cleveland Cavaliers wrapped up the NBA Central Division title with a 124-91 blowout over Denver.
James finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as Cleveland improved to 50-20 for the season to ensure they finish on top of the Eastern Conference's Central Division.
"I think a 50-win season in this league, it's not every year you can do that," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
"It just shows the hard work the guys have put in to get to this point."
It was a convincing return to form after the embarrassment of Saturday's 122-101 defeat at Miami.
Lue said he hoped Monday's win heralded the start of greater consistency.
"All is not bad," Lue said. "We're still growing, we're still getting better on a night-to-night basis and we can celebrate this, but we gotta keep moving forward." – Rappler.com