The Hornets traveled down to Atlanta Wednesday night to attend the eliminator play-in and end their season via ass-hooping provided by an extremely fresh Hawks team, a well-known result that has the potential to become something of an annual tradition. Last season, Charlotte spotted the Pacers 144 points and lost by 27 points in the 9-10 play-in game; this year, they surpassed themselves and lost to Atlanta, 132-103. If the trends hold, the current projections will cause them to lose to the Pistons by 31 next season. The Hornets are reasonably young and reasonably cool, and there are plenty of reasons to like them, though last night was a pretty ugly reminder of how far they have to go to find themselves among the Eastern Conference elite. I am referring here specifically to the situation on and off the pitch for Charlotte’s second-best player, Miles Bridges.
We’ll start with the end of Bridges ’night where he was thrown out after discussing a goalie call with the Hornets behind by 31 halfways in the fourth quarter. Bridges, who were minus-30 at night, promptly got a few technical errors. Montrezl Harrell guided him into the tunnel and toward the locker room as Bridges, hurried by a happy Atlanta crowd and a particularly dizzying person in a yellow hat, cracked and whipped his mouthpiece against the yellow hat wearer, only to cuddle a teenager. To her credit, the 16-year-old hit no problem.
If for some reason you feel like I would like a close-up of the mouthguardyes, this Charlotte Observer guy has you covered.
To his credit, Bridges apologized profusely after the match. “I was aiming for the guy who was screaming at me and it hit a little girl,” Bridges said. “So it’s definitely unacceptable on my part and I take full responsibility.” He also tweeted out a request for her information so he could apologize and try to correct, which is nice.
It’s worth describing the awful Hornet’s performance that led to Bridges getting so hot. Charlotte and Atlanta seemed ready for a fun matchup as both teams played top-10 offense (Atlanta in second place and Charlotte in ninth) and bottom-10 defense (26th and 23rd) of the season. Instead, the Hawks’ superior physicality helped them stop the Hornets – LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier shot a combined 15-for-47 – and impose their will on the glass, where the Hornets have no one who can remotely connect with Clint Capela. Bridges had a team-worst +/-, just four sparse rebounds and 12 points.
In any conversation about trades and team needs and possible roster shake-ups, the Hornets center field is mentioned with good reason, as it is the most overtly rotten position on any team that is worth a shit in the entire NBA. Mason Plumlee managed 11 minutes last night, while Harrell is 6-foot-7 and does not do much other than score inside against backups, which is important, but not really something Charlotte is desperate for.
After the match, James Borrego defended his team’s strategy of pushing Trae Young pick-and-rolls, which was a rather paralyzing strategic decision. The Hawks are built specifically to prevent teams from effectively doubling Young from pick-and-roll, as Kevin Huerter, DeAndre Hunter and Bogdan Bogdanovic led a cadre of eager shooters who took advantage of all the four-on-three the Hornets relinquished. them. Young struggled early, but all he needed was a good outburst, and he helped the Hawks slam the door with a 31-13 run in the third quarter, with his team scoring on 14 balls in a row. I suppose if your corps of one-on-one defenders is led by, I do not know, Kelly Oubre, you can not get it all, but Charlotte set out to be owned and the Hawks committed. They will have to figure out their Gordon Hayward and no-higher-than-6-foot-10-can-do-situations in the low season, but Ball is a superstar on the way, and Bridges took a leap this year ( manager not paying too much for Bridges will also be difficult). If Atlanta is lucky, they will beat Cleveland to get a date with the opposite of the Hornets (Miami) and learn what it’s like when an opponent can defend everything. Their best shot at a win may involve leaning on a yellow hat man to stab at Heats’ mutual over-intensity.