Installment #22: Saying Goodbye to the Charlotte Hornets
I had a feeling, a strong, nagging feeling actually, that last night's game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Indiana Pacers would be the final showing of my Hornets this year. Matter of fact, I remember saying as such to my wife as early as Sunday afternoon when they lost their fifth-straight game to end the regular season. I didn't want to echo this sentiment in yesterday's post because as a fan, I was still trying to hold out hope and didn't want to jinx the team. As it turns out, they didn't need me to jinx them. They were doomed from the beginning.
The Hornets and Pacers met in the first game of the first-ever State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament and the Hornets were absolutely destroyed. The final score was 144-117 Pacers, and as the final tally suggests, Indiana never trailed and the Hornets were never really in this game. When I tuned in near the midpoint of the first quarter, they were already down 25-12 and the Pacers' lead seemed to grow larger and larger from there. Indiana was up 40-24 after quarter No. 1, 69-45 at halftime, and led 76-45 early in the third quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, both teams began to empty their benches. The Hornets lost their first post season game in five years by twenty-seven points.
The Pacers got started almost immediately, beating the Hornets to what felt like every loose ball and staying in front of them on defense. Small forward Doug McDermott was everywhere on the court and it seemed as though Domantas Sabonis and Oshae Brissett couldn't miss anything. The Pacers had eight players in double figures on their way to snapping a franchise-worst nine-game losing streak in the post season. They will travel to D.C. to take on the Washington Wizards on Thursday night for the eighth seed in the upcoming eastern conference playoffs.
For the Hornets, Miles Bridges had 23 points, former Indiana University standout Cody Zeller had 17 points, and LaMelo Ball had 14 points and 4 rebounds in his post season debut. Malik Monk had 13 points off the bench and Terry Rozier had 16 points, 8 rebounds, and six assists. Those were the positives. The negatives, they were outrebounded by the Pacers 54-36 and because they could not, or would not find their way inside, they decided to die by the three. The Hornets only shot 12-of-40 from three-point range. Not being able to hit their threes, getting hardly any rebounds, lacking defense, and just being outplayed and outcoached by a more experienced team made for a long and grueling night for the squad from the Queen City.
So the Charlotte Hornets season is mercifully over and they can now focus on the off-season and next year. It was a season in which they defied many people's expectations. I heard some say before the season started that the team would win between 23 and 25 games and that they would probably make the post season next year. But they won 33 games and I believe had they been healthy and Gordon Hayward could have stayed on the court, they may have been a fourth or fifth seed and the play-in tournament would be a non-conversation. So although the final six games, especially the last game, was disappointing, I think the Hornets and Hornets fans have a future to be excited about. Maybe next year, they can get to the playoffs and win the franchise's first series in twenty years. For now though, we will have to wait!