Hawks Take Control in 2nd Half to Eliminate Hornets

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In a win-or-go-home setting like the NBA Play-In Tournament, teams have to be at their best or risk their season ending in the blink of an eye. The Charlotte Hornets learned all about this following last year’s painful finish and unfortunately, history repeated itself on Wednesday night, which concluded with a 132-103 elimination road loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

LaMelo Ball finished with a team-high 26 points and eight assists, but shot an inefficient 7-of-25 from the field in the defeat. Fellow backcourter Terry Rozier added another 21 points, although he also went just 8-of-22 on his shot attempts and committed five turnovers.

Despite a mistaken-heavy first half, the Hornets entered the break trailing by just eight. Atlanta really turned things up in the third quarter though, outscoring Charlotte 42-24 to take a 102-76 lead into the fourth. The Hawks got 30 total points from De’Andre Hunter and Trae Young, shot 67% and had zero turnovers in the frame, setting themselves up for cruise control.

“I thought our first quarter was pretty telling – just too many turnovers,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego afterwards. “I think our offense didn’t help. We had some good looks, but didn’t knock them down. Just a little too erratic there in the first quarter, which allowed them to get out and get some easy ones in transition. [Atlanta] did a good job of moving the ball and made shots. Unfortunately, they found some open stuff and our guys were scrambling. We adjusted some of our stuff, but it’s tough… especially when they get going.”

“Whenever you lose and your season is over with, it’s never a great feeling,” said Rozier. “We’re not happy, but at the same time, we can’t do anything about it. We had a great season and a lot of great memories, but that’s all we can hold onto now. It hasn’t hit me yet. I probably need another hour.”

PJ Washington was a bright spot for Charlotte, finishing with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and six rebounds. Overall though, the Hornets shot just 38% - 32% from 3-point range – turned the ball over 14 times for 22 Atlanta points and got outrebounded, 54-41.

Young (24 points on 8-of-24 shooting; 1-of-7 from 3-point) and Hunter (22) each had 20-point performances for the Hawks, with the former also dishing out a game-high 11 assists. Clint Capela produced a monstrous 15-point, 17-rebound double-double and Danilo Gallinari added another 18 points.

Last season’s 27-point Play-In Game loss to Indiana was a consistent motivational source throughout the Hornets’ season and sadly, a similar result transpired in this one. Surely a bitter pill to swallow for the second consecutive year, the discouraging ending shouldn’t take away from the progress the team has made in what’s been an overall productive campaign.

Added Borrego, “I’ll need some time to digest this. We’ll move forward, figure out what we can learn from this and then get back to work. It’s just about working now to take the next step. Two years ago, we won 23 games. Last year, we won 33 and this year we won 43. The goal is to not be in this position next year. I’m proud of how we dug in all year. Now, the goal is to use this summer to get better. Unfortunately, this game didn’t go our way, but we’ll use it as a way to get better.”

The Hawks will now head to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot on Friday, April 15 beginning at 7:30 PM ET on ESPN.