LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets were sent home early on the first day of the NBA play-in tournament with a loss to the Indiana Pacers 144-117.
The Hornets did not look themselves and just failed to put the ball in the hole. Come to think of it, they have failed to find a rhythm in their last six games, all of which ended in painful losses.
Each loss continued to stack up over time, inevitably finding themselves sliding from the eighth seed into the tenth. Maintaining that eighth seed would have given the Hornets a second chance at making the postseason for the first time in five years. Unfortunately, they just could not finish the season as strong as they started it.
The frustration was evident amongst the players after the blowout.
“They just came out and punched us in the mouth,” Cody Zeller said. “They were the more aggressive team, nothing went right.”
He is certainly not lying. The Hornets were down 40-24 after the first quarter and everything just seemed to snowball after that.
Miles Bridges was a little more straightforward with his response and said, “We just got our ass whooped today, there is nothing else to it. They wanted it more and they bullied us.”
Might sound a little aggressive, but Bridges is 100% correct. For two teams that were playing with their season on the line, it only looked like one showed up. However, the Pacers are not really an ordinary nine seed. They have been a constant face in the playoffs for the past few seasons and have an all-star caliber player in Domantas Sabonis, who finished with 14 points, 21 rebounds, and 9 assists.
The Hornets did not play to the level they were capable of, which is why they were on the wrong side of the winner’s column.
The silver lining in all of this negativity is that the Hornets are still one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Getting this experience in a do-or-die situation is important for developing players on the squad. This was Terry Rozier’s second season with Charlotte as a lead guard and a go-to scorer and he is only 26.
Miles Bridges really began to spread his wings later in the season and has shown he can become another option on this young team. He is 23.
We can not forget about their rookie phenom that lit the league on fire once he was named a starter in LaMelo Ball, who is only 19. Ball is set to be the face of the franchise and has shown he has the potential to be a perennial all-star later down the road, maybe even put himself in MVP talks at some point in the future.
The point is, this team needed to experience a high-level intensity game, hate the feeling of this loss, and get back to the drawing board over the summer. There were no high expectations for the Hornets coming into the season. They went above and beyond what anyone thought they would do.
At one point in the season, the Hornets had a better record than the Heat, Hawks, and Knicks, and they are all preparing for a postseason run. Injuries and COVID-19 derailed them this year, but they have a lot to look forward to in Charlotte.