When: 7:00 pm EDT
Where: State Farm Arena; Atlanta, GA
How to watch: ESPN (no Dell and Eric tonight)
The Hornets just wrapped up a respectable 43 win campaign. In true Charlotte sports fashion, that was only good enough to earn them the 10 seed, by far the lowest seed by an Eastern Conference team with that many wins in at least 25 years (I didn’t feel like going back further than that). Thankfully this new play-in tournament gives the Hornets a chance to play their way into the playoffs.
That starts tonight with a visit to Atlanta to take on the Hawks. The Hawks roll into tonight’s game winners of seven of their last nine, though they are 2-2 in their last four. They’ll be without John Collins, but they’ve been without John Collins for this stretch run and have managed just fine.
Trae Young has been on fire down the stretch. During the nine game stretch to close the season, Young averaged 30.3 points and 11.4 assists per game. He’s been supported by Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Kevin Huerter all being hot from three while Clint Capela gobbles up rebounds and dunks everything.
The Hornets were able to win their last meeting with Atlanta by pressuring Trae Young and making the rest of the Hawks make plays. Young finished with 15 assists, but he only scored nine points and turned the ball over six times. We’ll likely see a similar approach tonight, though it’ll be more difficult to pull off if the Hawks continue to shoot as well as they have been.
The Hornets will still be without Gordon Hayward, who is still struggling to get back from the ankle he sprained back in February. Otherwise the Hornets are at full strength and are well rested having not played since Sunday. The Hornets are 7-6 with two days rest, while the Hawks are 4-8, so the Hornets seemingly have the advantage there.
Last year, the Hornets collapsed in their play-in game. This group feels better equipped to handle the big moment. LaMelo Ball has shown a clutch gene throughout the latter part of the season, while some of the older vets like Terry Rozier and Isaiah Thomas have shown it throughout their career. This group shouldn’t be caught off guard by the big stage like they seemed to be at times last year.