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Preview: The Hornets regular season finale against the Wizards has massive playoff implications

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The fate of the Hornets postseason could hang on what happens today.

Charlotte Hornets v Washington Wizards Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (33-38) at Washington Wizards (33-38)

When: 1:00 pm EST

Where: Capital One Arena; Washington, DC

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards, and Indiana Pacers are all tied at 33-38 for the Eastern Conference’s No. 8, No. 9, and No. 10 seeds. With only one regular season game left, today’s matchup against the Wizards could ultimately determine if the Hornets make the playoffs or not.

Charlotte holds the tiebreaker over both the Wizards and Pacers. A win today would cement the Hornets as the No. 8 seed. This is massively important in light of the NBA’s new play-in approach where the No. 7 through No. 10 seeds will face off to determine who makes the playoffs. If the Hornets win today they will face the No. 7 seed and the winner makes the playoffs. If they lose as the No. 8 seed, they will face the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 seed, and the winner of that game makes the playoffs.

The path to the playoffs is much easier as the No. 8 seed than if the Hornets lose today and end up No. 9 or No. 10. This game is about as big as it gets in the regular season.

Washington Wizards overview

The Wizards have been shockingly competent since early April. They have gone 16-6 over their last 22 games despite a makeshift roster outside of their two stars, Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.

Beal has missed Washington’s last three games with a hamstring strain and is questionable to suit up against the Hornets. He’s currently in a tight battle with Stephen Curry for the NBA’s scoring title. Beal’s average of 31.4 PPG is second to Curry’s 31.8. If Beal is healthy enough to play today don’t be surprised if he pulls a David Robinson in 1994 and tries to hang 70 and walk away as the NBA’s scoring champ.

Westbrook is once again averaging a triple-double this season with 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and a league-leading 11.8 assists per game. Westbrook is a poor shooter but he’s one of the most dominant individual players in the league. The fact that he and Beal have lugged this uninspiring Wizards roster into the play-in tournament is a testament to what strong of a season the nine-time All-Star is having.

Second year forward Rui Hachimura is having another good season at about 14 points and over five rebounds per game. Forward Davis Bertans can be deadly from beyond the 3-point line. Center Thomas Bryant and forward Deni Avdija are both out for the season. The rest of the Wizards core players are journeymen and fringe players like Garrison Mathews, Ish Smith, and Chandler Hutchinson.

How the Hornets can win

The Hornets and the Wizards are similar in many ways. Both teams average about 110 points per game and give up around 112 points. Each team sits around 53 percent true shooting percentage and have rebounding percentages around 50 percent. It’s no surprise they have identical records.

The biggest difference between Charlotte and Washington is the pace (or the number of possessions a team uses per game) at which they play. The Wizards play at the league’s fastest pace at 105 while the Hornets play at just the 20th fastest pace at around 99. No team races up and down the court like the Wizards do, so slowing things down can knock them off their game. The key to victory for the Hornets could rest on dictating the pace of play and keeping Russell Westbrook operating in the halfcourt instead of running downhill in transition.

This is a huge, huge game to end the regular season.

Let’s go Hornets!

Poll

What do you predict for tonight’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Hornets win easy
    (11 votes)
  • 38%
    Hornets win a close one
    (83 votes)
  • 40%
    Wizards win a close one
    (87 votes)
  • 16%
    Wizards win easy
    (35 votes)
216 votes total Vote Now