Hornets, Wizards Battling For the 8th Seed Today in DC

by Sam Perley
  • Charlotte Hornets (33-38) at Washington Wizards (33-38)
  • Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 1 PM EST (Capital One Arena)
  • Bally Sports and WFNZ 610 AM or 102.5 FM
  • Last time out: Hornets won, 114-104 on March 30, 2021 in Washington, DC

After Falling Short in New York, Charlotte’s Focus Needs to Shift Quickly

The Hornets rallied from another significant first-half deficit in New York on Saturday afternoon, giving themselves multiple chances to win before closing out the affair with a tough overtime loss. Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham combined for 55 points off the bench in the defeat, with the former making his first appearance since May 2 because of Health and Safety Protocols. The way this one ended – coming up short on a game-winning shot at the end of regulation – was a tough one to swallow for Charlotte, but this outing needs to be in the rearview mirror with a winner-takes-the-eighth-seed battle today in Washington.

Hornets Returning to Washington With a Slightly Different Rotation

Charlotte won in Washington, 114-104, back on March 30, getting at least 25 points from both Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier in the victory. Hayward won’t be available for today’s game, but both LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk are back after sitting out the aforementioned contest with injuries. One player in particular to keep an eye for the Hornets is Cody Zeller – the Charlotte center is averaging 16.0 points on 59% shooting, 10.0 rebounds (4.5 offensive) and 2.0 assists in two outings against the Wizards already this season (one start).

Westbrook Leading Balanced Wizards Squad to Late-Season Surge

An early-April four-game losing streak sent the Wizards to 17-32, but a 16-6 record since has surprisingly qualified them for the NBA Play-In Tournament. Washington ranks sixth in offense (116.3) and ninth in defense (110.7) during this stretch, with Russell Westbrook’s nightly averages of 23.0 points on 46% shooting, 13.5 rebounds and 14.1 assists factoring in heavily to the turnaround. Whether or not Bradley Beal – the NBA’s second-leading scorer who also sat out back on March 30 – will be available is up in the air, although his return could provide a major boost to an already red-hot Wizards squad.

Preview Quote

“Obviously, we’re going to go try and win a game tomorrow and the mentality is the same. Let’s keep the eighth seed and let’s go win a game tomorrow. Build some momentum for the play-in game. If our guys battle like they did tonight in the second half, we’ll have a good chance tomorrow night.” – Head Coach James Borrego following Saturday’s loss in New York

Final Thoughts

Two spectacular individual performances off the bench weren’t enough to propel the Hornets to what would have been an eighth-seed-clinching triumph at Madison Square Garden and now, they have one final chance to get the job down. With the victor needing to win just one game in this week’s Play-In Tournament instead of two, the outcome of today’s battle between the Hornets and Wizards will likely cause ripple effects with the eventual playoff seeding.

Additional Notes

G Bradley Beal (left hamstring strain) has missed Washington’s last three games and is questionable to play today. The Wizards have gone 1-2 in his absence, with both losses coming on the road in Atlanta… F Deni Avdija (right ankle fracture) is also out for Washington today… Charlotte is 9-4 (3-4 on the road) against the Wizards since the start of the 2017-18 NBA season… The Hornets have not lost five consecutive games at any point this season.

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