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The Hornets playoff hopes remain alive with nine games remaining

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With nine games remaining, the battle for the final playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference is taking shape.

Charlotte Hornets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The season is winding down and the Hornets are sitting in playoff limbo as they try to climb from the cavern they dug themselves in mid-season. With nine games remaining, Charlotte is going to need to finish strong, and get help from others, in order to make the playoffs.

After Sunday’s win against Phoenix, Charlotte sits at a very mediocre 33-40, but just two games back from the current number eight seed, Miami Heat, who lost Sunday night against Boston. While it’s not at all where Charlotte wanted to be at this point in the season, they still sit in a solid position to make a push for the playoffs.

The Hornets also appear to be playing some of their best basketball of the season but the question is whether if it’s too late to turn it around. They been surging of late, winning four of their last five, with the only loss coming against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

If the Hornets are to make the playoffs, they’ll need a big boost from somebody other named Kemba Walker on the offensive end of the floor. During Friday’s loss to Cleveland the team looked helpless on defense and the bench as a whole looked completely lost against the Cavs.

Marco Belinelli provided an offensive boost off the bench giving the Hornets 22 points, but that’s about the only positive thing that came from the Hornets bench as the rest of the second unit didn’t have a plus minus higher than -10.

Sunday, the squad looked much better against a struggling Suns team but that may be good enough to get their mojo back in order. All five starters lead the way posting double figures in points — Walker leading the way with 31 followed by Marvin Williams with 21.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Nicolas Batum has also been entirely way too inconsistent this season for the contract he was given. One game he will give you a solid 20-8-6 and the next its barely 10. He’s supposed to be the Hornets second option to score behind Walker. They can’t expect to win games when he’s not performing to his expectations. More performances like that against Phoenix (20 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists) will be needed in the final stretch.

What’s good for the Hornets is that the other three teams fighting for that eighth spot are all suffering from their own problems. It seems that Chicago and Detroit have completely lost their way, going just 4-6 and 3-7, respectively.

I haven’t really been able to tell if Detroit is actually trying to tank or not throughout the season, but now it’s starting to look a little bit clearer. Detroit is 1-6 in their last seven games with the only win coming against the tanking Phoenix Suns.

On top of that Head coach Stan Van Gundy just recently benched starting point guard Reggie Jackson for Ish Smith and the results weren’t very pleasing being routed by both the struggling Bulls, and a less than magical Orlando team.

Detroit’s final stretch of games isn’t very appealing as they’ll have to face six potential playoff teams in nine games. Best of luck to them. Not.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago on the other hand seems to be playing how an eight seed typically plays. They’ll look good one night, such as most recently against Milwaukee on Sunday, but then losing to teams like Philadelphia the game before. As decent as the entire “process” has been at certain parts of the season the Bulls can’t afford to lose those types of games, especially by such large margins at this point in the season.

Chicago also appears to have the “easiest” schedule to end the season as their last five games is against four of the league’s worst teams in New York, Philadelphia, Brooklyn (twice) and Orlando. Of course, I just said Chicago has been struggling against teams they should beat but if they want to prove their worth they’ll show up during this stretch.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Onto Miami which might have had the weirdest season of any team in the association. Miami started off the season with an abysmal 11-30 record then everyone randomly caught lightning in a bottle and had just about everyone questioning if they were wrong about Dion Waiters.

Since that rough start, Miami has been an impressive 24-8. They have had a few injuries here as of late losing Waiters and Hassan Whiteside to sprained ankles for a little stretch and Justice Winslow has been out for the remainder of the season since the start of the New Year due to a shoulder injury.

Injuries, however, haven’t slowed them down as they have continued to surge forward winning six games in their last 10, Cleveland twice. However, Miami’s final 10 aren’t going to be a cake walk. The month of April will be their test as each team they’ll face will be fighting for playoff positioning including an important match up with Charlotte.

Charlotte’s remaining schedule isn’t the prettiest either every game after Sunday’s match up against Phoenix will be an opponent either determined to stay in the playoff hunt or fighting for higher seeding.

Realistically, anywhere from the 5 seed and below is open for the taking. Charlotte could find themselves picking in a nice spot in the lottery for one of these highly touted recruits or battling it out against Cleveland or Boston in the first round if you’re into that sort of thing.

Whatever happens, it should make for an interesting end to the season.