With the final seedings for this week’s NBA Play-In Tournament ultimately out of their hands, the Charlotte Hornets controlled what they could control on Sunday afternoon by notching a 124-108 victory over the Washington Wizards at Spectrum Center.
Terry Rozier led the hosts with a game-high 25 points – 17 coming in the fourth – and drained 5-of-9 3-point attempts, marking his first 25-point game since March 25. LaMelo Ball nearly triple-doubled with 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting (6-of-7 from three), 10 rebounds and nine assists, still good for his 23rd double-double of the campaign.
With Washington ahead 72-70 at the 4:31 mark of the third, Charlotte closed the frame on a 19-10 run, with 14 of these points coming from Isaiah Thomas on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting. The Wizards got to within three early in the fourth before the Hornets uncorked a 15-2 run – the first 10 points coming from Rozier – to put a victorious bow on their regular season finale.
“Today was very reflective of our season, in general,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego afterwards. “You go through highs and lows and you figure it out together. That’s what we did this season. Eighty-two-game season, there were highs and lows and we got better throughout the season, just like we did tonight. In the game, we got better as the game went along. We figured it out and that’s what it takes.”
Thomas and Jalen McDaniels each finished with 14 points to lead a Charlotte bench that outscored Washington’s by a 49-37 margin. One of the only major blemishes in the final box score for the Hornets were turnovers – they committed a season-high 20 giveaways leading to 25 points going the other way.
Rui Hachimura (21) and Corey Kispert (20) both had 20-point showings for Washington in the loss, their ninth straight at Spectrum Center. The Wizards’ defense allowed Charlotte to shoot 54% from the field and also a blistering 55% from 3-point range (18-of-33).
Despite finishing 10th in the East for the second straight year following concurrent wins by Brooklyn, Cleveland and Atlanta, the Hornets have taken a major step in what has been an unusually competitive year for any playoff race in recent memory. The 43 victories are the most by a 10th-seeded team since the 2000-01 Seattle SuperSonics and also marks about a six and 14-win improvement from the past two seasons, respectively, based on winning percentage.
Added Borrego, “I’m extremely proud of that group, our staff – I could go down the line. Those players deserve a ton of credit for that growth we’ve seen. That’s tough to do back-to-back-to-back for three years. Most years, we’d be the seventh or eighth seed right now. The East got better and we got better. Now, we’ve got a shot to keep moving forward. Our season is not over. We’ve just put ourselves in position to continue our season, have a meaningful game on the road and I’m excited for our group. To be in this position today, our group has stuck together, fought together and really grown throughout the year. That’s all I can ask.”
The Hornets will now head south to face the ninth-seeded Atlanta Hawks in an elimination game on Wednesday, April 13 beginning at 7 PM ET. The winner will then advance to face the loser of Tuesday’s game between Brooklyn and Cleveland on Friday night.