Would you believe it? We’ve finally arrived at the final week of the 2018-19 NBA regular season. Although they still need results in other games to go their way, the Charlotte Hornets can still make the playoffs. The playoffs are still possible because even without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller, the Hornets pulled off a 104-91 road win against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday afternoon. For James Borrego’s team, it’s a four-game regular season sweep of Detroit, who could’ve clinched a playoff spot had they won.
The Hornets got the usual performance from Kemba Walker who had 31 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. The Hornets also got nice games from Miles Bridges, Dwayne Bacon, and Jeremy Lamb. However, it was Frank Kaminsky who was a revelation once again as he scored a season-high 24 points. It’s his third straight game scoring 20 or more points and it happened at the most opportune time.
Although the Hornets have fought valiantly to stay in the playoff chase, there is still a looming cloud over the team that’s been talked about all season. These last two games could be a turning point for the franchise with free agency on the horizon for Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb. Charlotte plays at Cleveland and at home against the playoff bound Orlando Magic to end the season.
Knowing the Hornets results from the last few times they’ve played bad teams, the Cavaliers game is not going to be easy. Of course, the Magic are led by former Hornets head coach Steve Clifford and has ex-Charlotte point guards Michael Carter-Williams and D.J. Augustin. Surely, they’d love nothing more than to go on the road and end the Hornets season in game 82. Wouldn’t that be another cruel chapter for this organization?
Even if the Hornets win out to end their season at 40-42, their playoff fate is still not in their control. The playoff clinching scenario is pretty simple for the aforementioned Pistons. All they have to do is win out because they still control their own destiny. Let’s be honest, if the Pistons don’t win against the Grizzlies and Knicks (their final two opponents), they shouldn’t belong in the playoffs and I’m sure that fan base agrees.
The Miami Heat, another team looking to sneak into the postseason, lost in overtime to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday which supposedly dented their playoff hopes. Actually, it did not. Despite their loss, they’re still alive for the final playoff spot in the east because of the Hornets victory on Sunday. They would need to win their final two games, hope the Pistons lose their last two, and hope the Hornets lose one of their final two.
For the Hornets, the simplest thing they could do to make the playoffs is win out and hope the Pistons lose one of their final two games. If the Pistons somehow lose out, the Hornets only have to win one of their last two games to get in. Because the Magic won on the road against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, the Hornets chances at a southeast division title ended. In addition to that, the Brooklyn Nets clinched the playoffs with a road win over the Indiana Pacers.
All of this leads to the Hornets, Pistons, and Heat battling for the final playoff spot up for grabs this season. The Charlotte fan base has been divided all season on whether the team should’ve tanked (which was my stance, but it’s too late for that now) or made a run to sneak into the postseason. In the end, it has once again become playoffs or bust for the Hornets. All of the debates between Hornets fans on what they feel the team should do to make themselves better ends now.
It’s now down to the players and coaches to figure how to go 2-0 this week. From there, they’ll have to see what the Pistons do. Their star player, Blake Griffin, gutted the game out against Charlotte when it looked like he shouldn’t have played. However, his bothersome knee injury played into his struggle and ultimately the Pistons struggle on Sunday. The Hornets did catch a break with that, but at this point teams need luck to make results happen.
Jeremy Lamb has apparently become a nuisance to the Toronto Raptors out of the blue. As mentioned before, I have no clue who this version of Frank Kaminsky is because I’ve never seen it before. However, the most obvious thing of note is the play of Bridges and Bacon throughout this run. Coach Borrego giving them more minutes has seen them play with a lot of confidence since their run of consistent play began.
Overall, there are a lot of factors to take into account for the final week of the regular season. The results of the Hornets last few games will have huge ramifications on the organization going forward. Now would be a good time to become a fan of the Memphis Grizzlies and/or New York Knicks because these two teams control the Hornets fate in what will be a wild week in the NBA.