Installment #21: The First Play-In Tournament
After a pandemic-shortened 72-game season that was full of uncertainty, seemingly more injuries, and COVID cancelations, the 2021 NBA post season is here! The action begins tonight with two of the four games in the league's first-ever play-in tournament leading into the playoffs. The first game on the docket, my Charlotte Hornets will go on the road to take on the Indiana Pacers. Tip-off will be at 6:30 PM eastern time.
The Hornets have stumbled their way into the post season, entering Tuesday night's action as the No. 10 seed in the eastern conference. At 33-39, the team has lost five games in a row to end the regular season. This current losing streak dropped them from eighth place and only having to win one game to get to the playoffs to the bottom of the east conference standings and having to win two games to continue competing. The most recent loss was a 115-110 defeat to the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon. It was a game in which the Hornets blew an eleven-point fourth quarter lead. They fought hard with what they had on Sunday but lost in the final seconds. The loss topped off what has been a rough week-and-a-half for Buzz City.
In addition to the apparent implosion of the Charlotte Hornets in the season's final week, they continue to be hampered by injuries. At different times during the year, the team has been without guys like LaMelo Ball, Devonte Graham, P.J. Washington, Cody Zeller, and Miles Bridges due to a variety of ailments. These guys, whether at 100 percent or not, will be ready to go tonight. But forward Gordon Hayward, who continues to be bothered by a sprained foot will sit this one out. The team is 8-16 since Hayward went down in early April and they have definitely missed his size and experience. Forward Cody Martin will also miss tonight's game for the Hornets due to an injured left ankle.
The Indiana Pacers (34-38) have also dealt with multiple injuries this year and will be without their share of players for this game. Starters Myles Turner and T.J. Warren will be out due to foot injuries. Guard Malcolm Brogdon will be a game time decision. Although the Hornets beat the Pacers two out of three times this season, Indiana is the three-point favorites. The winner of this game will play the loser of the Celtics-Wizards matchup on Thursday for the No. 8 seed in the upcoming playoffs. For the loser, it's home for the summertime and back to the drawing board for next season.
Will the Hornets win or lose tonight? I don't know. As a Hornets fan, things have not gone our way for a long time and so, my expectations are not that high. I will be watching tonight though, or rather listening to the Hornets radio network via SiriusXM. I'm hoping they can win tonight and keep this unforeseen season going. No matter what happens though, I have to remember that they were not supposed to be here. We'll see!