What: Charlotte Hornets (35-46) vs. Indiana Pacers (48-33)
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, Indiana
When: 7:00 p.m.
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
We’ve arrived at the last game of the regular season, and the stakes couldn’t be lower. The Hornets play the Pacers on the road tonight in a game that, in terms of league positioning, means nothing to the Pacers, and little to the Hornets. Indiana is deadlocked in 5th place, while with a loss and a Lakers win, the Hornets would tie Los Angeles for the 11th worst record in the league.
Not to be overly dramatic, but this season can go to hell. Coming in with fairly optimistic expectations, only for those expectations to laugh in our faces as they walk out the door and over to, ironically, the Pacers, has left me downright salty. Because let’s face it, the Hornets were supposed to be the fifth best team in the East (at least in our minds), not the Paul George-less Pacers. Yet here we are, staring at another mid-30 win season where the margins between great and mediocre are about as close as the dozen or so fourth quarter losses by one possession.
Indiana will likely go with their usual starting unit, but don’t be surprised if their starters don’t play their usual minutes. With nothing to play for, resting key players seems the obvious thing to do.
Charlotte’s rotation will also likely remain the same. It doesn’t appear Cody Zeller, Dwayne Bacon, or Treveon Graham will be available, which means the usual minutes for the likes of Malik Monk, Julyan Stone, and Willy Hernangomez. Monk and Willy have, without question, been bright spots these last few games, and strong performances from both tonight would at least end the season on a positive note.
But even another great Monk performance or a win doesn’t erase the doubt and uncertainty surrounding the team. We get our first chance to hear from Mitch Kupchak later today, and as such, we could get an early sense of his approach as GM. But as of now, it feels like most anything is on the cards for the team moving forward. Undoubtedly, the roster we see tonight will differ from the one next season. How different is the question, and even more pressing is whether it will feature Kemba Walker.
All that is for the summer, however. As disappointing as the season has been, tonight is our last chance to watch the Hornets play an NBA game until October. As much as I want the season to be over right now, I will soon long for the Hornets as we head into the summer.