Hornets End 2020-21 Season with Play-In Tournament Loss to Indiana

Pacers Take Control from the Start, Charlotte Falls Short in Quest for Playoff Berth
by Sam Perley

More Coverage: Game Action Gallery | Head Coach James Borrego Postgame | Miles Bridges Postgame | Cody Zeller Postgame

A tough first-quarter showing got the Charlotte Hornets pointed in the wrong direction from the get-go in Tuesday night’s NBA Play-In Tournament Opener, which eventually culminated in a 144-117 season-ending loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Miles Bridges led the way for Charlotte with a team-high 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, eight rebounds and four assists in the loss. Cody Zeller was right behind the third-year forward in the scoring column, putting up 17 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting, three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 28 minutes off the bench.

Indiana raced out to a 20-7 lead in the opening minutes and then closed out the first quarter ahead, 40-24, after shooting 60% and 7-of-14 from three in the frame. The Hornets righted themselves at times in the second quarter, but never managed to get any momentum going and entered the break trailing by 24. Charlotte never threatened the outcome at any point in the second half as the Pacers easily advanced in the NBA’s Play-In Tournament.

“Obviously, we didn’t get off to a great start,” said Coach Borrego afterwards. “There were very few high moments throughout this game. We just could not find our footing on either end of the floor. [Indiana] was the aggressor and these are the moments that you learn from and grow from for all of us, including myself. We got to get better and we will get better, but proud of our guys overall with their effort this year. Next time, we’re in this position, we’ll respond better.”

Terry Rozier added 16 points, eight rebounds and a team-high six assists, although struggled to score efficiently after going just 7-of-20 from the field and 0-of-9 from distance. LaMelo Ball (14 points) and Malik Monk (13) also scored in double figures for a Charlotte squad that closed out its 2020-21 campaign with six consecutive overall losses.

Oshae Brissett (23 points on 10-of-14 shooting) and Doug McDermott (21 points, 16 coming in the first quarter) both notched 20-point performances for Indiana in the win. Domantas Sabonis nearly tripled-doubled with 14 points, a game-high 21 rebounds and nine assists, while the Pacers also received double-digit scoring outputs from TJ McConnell (17), Malcolm Brogdon (16), Goga Bitadze (14), Kelan Martin (14) and Justin Holiday (12).

Indiana, which lost guard Caris LeVert earlier this morning after he was placed into Health and Safety Protocols, finished the night shooting 55% from the field and 46% from behind the arc (16-of-35). The Hornets went just 12-of-40 on three-point attempts (30%) and got outrebounded on the glass by 18 total boards (54-36).

Charlotte will now head into the offseason, while the Pacers will meet the loser of Tuesday night’s Boston/Washington NBA Play-In Game on Thursday night for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.

Added Borrego, “All great players, all great teams have felt this moment right here and we’re no exception. It’s how you respond from that. The guys that we need to drive the bus, for us to get better, they have to remember this moment. I’m honored to coach this group. I love this group, but we have a ways to go. We have to get better. It’s just a matter of how do we respond this summer. Part of this is etching this into our memory bank, so as we grow, get better and work this summer, we don’t forget this moment right now.”

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