Hornets vs. Hawks Preview: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Have Betting Edge

Action Network analyst Raheem Palmer breaks down the betting value in the NBA Play-In matchup on Wednesday night between the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks.

Hornets vs. Hawks Odds

Hornets Odds +5.5
Hawks Odds -5.5
Over/Under 235.5
Time 7 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Expectations were high for the Atlanta Hawks this season after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but they fell well short. Atlanta failed to meet its season win total of 47.5, going 43-39 and finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Not all is lost for the Hawks, though, as they can take a step toward correcting a season of inconsistency on Wednesday night in the 9-10 Play-In Game against the Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte lost by 27 points in this matchup last year against the Pacers.

Despite finishing the regular season with the same record as the Hawks, oddsmakers still aren’t giving the Hornets much respect in this matchup as they opened as 5.5-point road underdogs.

Will the Hornets’ experience in this play-in situation help, or can Atlanta jump start another playoff run?

Let’s analyze both sides and find out!

>> Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds, track your bets and follow all of our experts’ picks.

Charlotte Offense Thriving Without Hayward

The Hornets made a 10-game improvement from last year’s team, with the biggest leap coming on the offensive end. Charlotte went from 22nd in Offensive Rating (111.0) to sixth, scoring 114.8 points per 100 possessions during the regular season in non-garbage time minutes.

LaMelo Ball followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign with a solid sophomore season, averaging 20.1 points, 7.6 assists and 6.7 rebounds. Miles Bridges is the team’s leading scorer at 20.2 points per game, along with seven rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Ball and Bridges have led the charge without Gordon Hayward, who is once again hurt and out indefinitely.  While the Hornets have struggled in Hayward’s absence in the past, they were 13-5 in their final 18 regular-season games without him this season.

It appears Charlotte has turned the corner in general, closing the season with an 11-4 record, a +5.5 Net Rating behind a 122.5 Offensive Rating and 117.5 Defensive Rating. The Hornets beat the Hawks by 10 points back on March 16, which is certainly encouraging.

Charlotte is seven in both eFG% (54.8%) and 3-point shooting percentage (37.0%). The Hornets shoot the 10th-highest frequency of 3-point attempts (38.8%) and are facing a Hawks team that has struggled to defend the perimeter.

Terry Rozier shot 37.4% from behind the arc on 8.1 attempts per game this season, but he was just 15.8% against the Hawks this season. That’ll need to be better for Charlotte to advance here.

Defensively, the Hornets have actually held Trae Young to 20.8 points on 37.7% shooting this season. They’ll look to force role players to beat them, especially with John Collins out. Charlotte will look to get in transition often after a defensive stop. The Hornets rank first in transition points per play (4.2).

Can Atlanta Stop Charlotte’s Attack?

Atlanta got hot at the right time last season, and it might be doing the same in 2022. The Hawks started 17-25 before finishing 26-14.

With Young at the helm, the Hawks ranked second this season at 116.3 points per 100 possessions. They’re also first in half-court points per 100 possessions (101.1), eighth with a 54.5 eFG% and third with a 37.8% mark from 3-point land.

Given Young’s struggles against Charlotte and Collins’ absence, the Hawks will need more from secondary options like Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter and Kevin Huerter. Atlanta is 17-11 without Collins this season.

The Hawks put up a 119.1 Offensive Rating against the Hornets this season. They should generate extra possessions, as well, having ranked 14th in Offensive Rebound Rate (25.9%) and facing a Hornets team that was 25th in Defensive Rebound Rate (27.7%).

The biggest issue for the Hawks has been their defense, which was 26th this season in Defensive Rating (114.8 points per 100 possessions in their non-garbage time minutes). The defense has improved recently (114.5 points per 100 possessions over the last two weeks), but it remains to be seen if this team can consistently get stops.

Hornets-Hawks Pick

My model makes this game Hawks -2.74 with a total of 240, so +5 there’s some value on the Hornets +5.5 in this matchup, as well as over 236. From my view these are evenly matched teams and their performance against the spread (ATS) tells a similar story. The Hawks were 23-18 ATS at home this season, while the Hornets were 23-16-2 ATS on the road.

Both teams have solid offenses with poor defenses. What’s encouraging for the Hornets is that they’ve done a solid job at defending Young this season.

Even more encouraging is that the Hornets play at the fifth-fastest pace in the league (100.5 possessions) and are first in transition points per 100 possessions (4.2). What the Hornets lack in rebounding, they make up for by pushing the pace. The Hawks also struggle to defend the perimeter and with the way the Hornets are shooting from 3-point range, they’re live to win this game outright.

I’ll take the Hornets +5.5 and over 235.5.

Pick: Hornets +5.5 | Over 235.5