The Charlotte Hornets did not play particularly well tonight, but they also didn't play bad all things considered. It wasn't until midway through the 4th quarter that the Atlanta Hawks managed to put this one away, and for a lot f the game they struggled.
If anybody is still waiting for the Hornets offense to come together, well your patience is to be admired, but at this point it's just expected that Charlotte won't score very much. Tonight was just that as most of the game they struggled to put points on the board no matter the lineup of players. It also didn't help that the Hornets were without go to scorers like Al Jefferson, and heck even Lance Stephenson despite how bad he's been this season.
However, Charlotte managed to keep the game close for most of the night thanks to a great defensive effort. Charlotte has been one of the better defensive teams in the NBA ever since Steve Clifford took over, and tonight was a reminder that when they're locked in they can shut down almost anybody for stretches. The highlight of the night was holding Atlanta to only 15 points in the first quarter, and below 50 points by the end of the first half.
Problem was, Atlanta had time to figure things out at halftime and compose themselves. They came out of the half firing on all cylinders and built their lead up to double digits. Charlotte was able to stop the bleeding for a little while and enter the fourth quarter only down 10. Except stopping the bleeding wasn't enough, because they needed to throw a counter punch, and the Hornets just didn't have the offense to do that. They were never able to climb back into it, and by midway point of the quarter the game had pretty much been decided. Then, Atlanta really added insult to injury by piling on points at the end of the game, and turning a convincing win into complete and total annihilation. Charlotte lost, and with that loss the Hornets were eliminated from the playoffs.
Maybe it's a good thing Charotte was officially eliminated, as Kemba Walker banged knees with Jeff Teague in the second half and was clearly in some pain. It might not be a bad idea to shut him down for the rest of the season to avoid further risk of him re-injuring that knee.
There's only one positive from tonight, and it's that the Hornets knew they had no chance of making the playoffs at this point of the season. As a result, Steve Clifford decided to unload the bench and play guys like Troy Daniels, P.J. Hairston, and Noah Vonleh some significant minutes. Hopefully they keep getting minutes as the season comes to a close, and those players will be able to take what they learn and come into next season as better players.