CHARLOTTE — For the second season in a row, the Hornets’ fate rested on the Play-In Tournament game between the ninth and 10th seeds in the Eastern Conference.
And for the second consecutive year, the Hornets saw their season end in a blowout loss.
The ninth-seeded Hawks dispatched Charlotte 132-103 on Wednesday in Atlanta, keeping the Hornets out of the postseason for a sixth straight season, the second-longest playoff drought in the NBA. Charlotte was beaten by 27 points by the Pacers last year in their 9-10 play-in game.
“I thought our first quarter was pretty telling with just too many turnovers,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “I think our offense didn’t help. We had some good looks but didn’t knock them down. Just a little too erratic there in the first quarter, which allowed them to get out and get some easy ones in transition. They did a good job of moving the ball and made shots. Unfortunately, they found some open stuff and our guys were scrambling.”
Two-time All-Star point guard Trae Young got off to a slow start but finished with 24 points and 11 assists as the Hawks took over the game in the third quarter. Atlanta led Charlotte by nine points after the first quarter and eight at halftime, but the Hawks outscored the Hornets 42-24 in the third quarter to pull away. De’Andre Hunter added 22 points for the Hawks while Danilo Gallinari provided 18 points.
The Hawks will travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers on Friday for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
LaMelo Ball led Charlotte with 26 points and eight assists but made just 7 of 25 field goal attempts.
The Hornets had entered the night with positive momentum after winning 11 of their previous 15 games thanks to accurate shooting and improved defense. Both of those factors were nowhere to be found against an Atlanta team that topped Charlotte in every statistical metric.
As a team, the Hornets shot 37.8% (37 of 90) from the field compared to the Hawks’ 52.1% (49 of 94). On 3-pointers, a crucial part of Charlotte’s strategy, the Hawks made 50% while Charlotte was just 31.7%.
Terry Rozier scored 21 points for Charlotte, while P.J. Washinton was a bright spot for the Hornets with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Miles Bridges finished with 12 points.
“Whenever you lose and your season is over with, it’s never a great feeling,” Rozier said. “We’re not happy, but at the same time, we can’t do anything about it. We had a great season and a lot of great memories, but that’s all we can hold onto now. It hasn’t hit me yet. I probably need another hour.”