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Hornets Head to Indiana For NBA Play-In Tournament Opener

by Sam Perley

  • #10 Charlotte Hornets (33-39) at #9 Indiana Pacers (34-38)
  • Tuesday, May 18, 2021 at 6:30 PM EST (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
  • TNT and WFNZ 610 AM or 102.5 FM
  • Last time out: Hornets won, 114-97 on April 2, 2021 in Indianapolis, IN

Back-to-Back Narrow Weekend Losses Seal 10th Seed for Hornets 

Charlotte got off to the start it was looking for on Sunday afternoon in Washington, but a huge fourth-quarter rally by the opposing Wizards sent the visitors to a brutally disappointing loss. The defeat marked the Hornets’ fifth in a row – their longest losing streak of the season – and locked them into the 10th seed for tonight’s Play-In Game opener in Indiana. Coupled with Saturday’s overtime road loss against New York on Saturday afternoon, it’s been a fairly tough weekend for the team – perhaps a day off will help everybody regroup physically, mentally and emotionally for tonight’s loser-goes-home battle with the Pacers. 

Indiana Also Weathering Injuries, Up-And-Down Play the Past Few Weeks

Much like the Hornets, Indiana hasn’t played its best basketball as of late after dealing with a wave of critical injuries, particularly to the backcourt rotation. The Pacers are just 5-7 since April 27 and rank 12th in offensive (114.9) and 20th in defensive rating (114.1) during this stretch, although haven’t had leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon (21.2 PPG) for the last 10 games because of a hamstring issue. Caris LeVert has taken on an increased offensive load with 24.8 points and 7.6 assists over his last eight outings, something the Hornets should expect to see more of tonight, regardless of Brogdon’s availability. 

Look for Domantas Sabonis, Charlotte Frontcourt to Be Key Matchup 

After missing six games in late April because of a back issue, reigning two-time All-Star center Domantas Sabonis has kept the Pacers afloat the past two weeks with eye-popping averages of 23.0 PTS on 62% shooting (44% from three on 2.6 3PA), 14.1 rebounds, 10.7 assists and 1.8 steals across his last nine outings. Sabonis is one of the NBA’s premier play-making big men and a major matchup challenge with the physicality and versatility he brings to the floor on a nightly basis. Cody Zeller, PJ Washington, Miles Bridges and Bismack Biyombo as well will absolutely need to mitigate Sabonis’ impact as much as possible down low for Charlotte in this one. 

Preview Quote

“I feel like everybody’s focused. Everybody knows what we have to do [on Tuesday]. It is a different type of feel just because you’re playing two win-or-go-home games. This is what you play in the NBA for and I feel like everybody’s ready, so I’m ready. We can’t dwell on the regular season. We finished how we finished. We would have liked it to go a different way, but we’re here now and we still have a chance to make the playoffs. We’re not thinking about the past – just winning these two games and getting to the playoffs.” – Miles Bridges

Final Thoughts 

From a win-loss standpoint, Charlotte certainly isn’t entering this do-or-die game with a tremendous amount of momentum, although played fairly well at times over its past two outings against the Knicks and Wizards. Ultimately though, this is where the Hornets find themselves and they’ll need a full 48-minute showcase this evening if they want any shot of picking up a pair of road wins this week and then qualifying for that top-8 seed.  

Additional Notes 

G Malcolm Brogdon (right hamstring soreness), C Myles Turner (right toe partial plantar plate tear), F TJ Warren (left foot stress fracture), G Aaron Holiday (right great toe sprain), G Jeremy Lamb (right knee soreness) and G Edmond Sumner (left knee contusion) all sat out for Indiana in Sunday’s home win over Toronto... Brogdon, who did not play against Charlotte back on April 2, was a game-time decision before being ruled out… The Hornets have not beaten the Pacers three consecutive times in the same season since 2015-16 (3-0). 

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