Hornets make play-in tournament and finish 10th in the Eastern Conference for second consecutive year

By Chase Whitney

April 11, 2022

Photo: Rusty Jones / AP

After a mostly successful and entertaining 2021-22 season, it all comes down to one game for the Hornets– or, if they beat Atlanta, two games.

Entering the play-in tournament as the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference for the second time in as many seasons, the Hornets made a marked improvement from last year. Following a 33-39 season in 2020-21, Charlotte finished 43-39 this season despite ending up with the same seed. The Hornets will need to make it past the Hawks before a matchup with Brooklyn or Cleveland awaits them to determine the East’s eighth seed. 

The Hornets finished the regular season beating the Washington Wizards 124-108:

Although the Hornets and Hawks finished with identical records and split the season series 2-2, Atlanta’s record within the Southeast division served as the tiebreaker that seeded them above Charlotte. The most recent matchup between the two teams was on March 16, a game the Hornets won 116-106 behind a near triple-double from LaMelo Ball and some crucial small-ball minutes from PJ Washington. A single-elimination contest between two top-10 offenses in the NBA should make for another exciting game.

Atlanta has been without John Collins since March 11, who is dealing with simultaneous finger and foot injuries. He’s unlikely to be active for the play-in, and Lou Williams has been day-to-day with lower back discomfort. Apart from Collins and Williams, Hawks coach Nate MacMillan has a full cast at his disposal. Bogdan Bogdanović has upped his scoring from 15.1 points per game on the season to 17.8 since Collins went down on March 11, shooting 38.2 percent from distance.

Slowing down Trae Young is almost an impossible task, but the Hornets defense held him to a season-low nine points (3-12 FG, 0-6 3P) the last time they met. The combination of Ball and Cody Martin wreaking havoc on a smaller Young at the point-of-attack causes problems for the Hawks, who need Young to be at least a moderately efficient scorer and distributor to have their best chance at winning. While Charlotte’s lack of a true rim protector has hindered them for multiple seasons now, it’s actually helped them in certain matchups to be deeper on the perimeter than the interior– Atlanta is one of those matchups.

Clint Capela will undoubtedly be a force on the interior, but the Hornets have a defensive core that can quickly rotate out and take away lanes for cutters to help mask the inability to contest opposing teams’ shots at the rim. If the Hornets can keep the ball out of the hands of Young and keep Bogdanović and Huerter from getting to their spots, it could render Capela as the most reliable source of efficient offense. In the March 16 game, Capela took 14 shots (the second-most on the team) which was two more than Young. Regardless of how many shots Capela makes, the Hornets will likely be in good shape if he’s the one taking most of them. 

The Charlotte Hornets will take on the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday, April 13 at 7:00 p.m. EST. airing on ESPN. The Hornets will also host a free Watch Party at Spectrum Center

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