An Atlanta Hawks team that started the season slow and found themselves eight games under 500. in mid-January (17-25) due to injuries to a lot of their key players, were 19-3 in their last 22 home games coming in and are now just one win away from getting back into the playoffs after defeating the Charlotte Hornets 132-103 on Wednesday night.
They eliminated the Hornets in a #9 vs #10 matchup, sending Charlotte home after the Play-In elimination game for the second straight year.
The Fans in Atlanta were on their feet supporting they’re team from the beginning, as they watched they’re two-time All-Star Trae Young lead his team with a double-double scoring 24 (14 in 3rd) points and dishing out 11 assist. Young started the game slow missing eight straight shots in the 1st quarter after making his first shot attempt. He didn’t score his next basket until less than four minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter.
Young told the media post-game; “This team definitely feeds off the energy from the crowd.”
Charlotte kept it close going into the half (60-52) then the home team blew the game open in the 3rd quarter going on a 27-8 run the final five minutes and outscored Charlotte 42-24. They never looked back as they led by as many as 33. Third year wingman DeAndre Hunter was a huge part of that run. He scored 16 of his 22 in the third and also grabbed seven rebounds.
Atlanta’s head coach Nate McMillan spoke about his team’s run in the third, “We established our defense.”
Young spoke to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the win about his slow start and his teammates having his back, “We’re a really good team. We have a lot of guys who can play and we’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and things like that, but we have guys who can step up and make plays.”
Big man Clint Capela controlled the paint all night as he had a monster 17 rebound game (4 off) and had 15 points and three blocks. Danilo Gallinari who got the start in place of John Collins who was out dealing with a tear in his foot, chipped in with 18 points. Atlanta’s bench outscored Charlotte’s 40-26. They shot 52% from the field (49-94) and 50% from 3-pt (16-32).
They outrebounded Charlotte 54-41 and were a +10 in assist (31-21).
Two straight years the Hornets have gotten beaten handily in this Play-In game and giving up 132+ points to their opponent both times. They were beat 144-117 by the Indiana Pacers just the year before.
They were led by first-time All-Star LaMelo Ball who didn’t have an efficient shooting night (7-25 FG) while leading his team with 26 points and took seven more three-pointers than any other player that played (4-14 3-pt). He also had a team-high eight assist. His backcourt teammate Terry Rozier missed his first seven shots but ended with 21 points (8-22 FG).
“Their coach(McMillan) did some good stuff. We used to blitz last game and we got a lot of steals, and they adjusted on that and that was a good move by them” Ball said on the reason his team was never really to get going.
Wingman PJ Washington had 17 points and was the only Hornet in double-figures at the half. Forward Miles Bridges who came into this game averaging 20.2 ppg was on the brink of his first All-Star appearance with teammate LaMelo, couldn’t have picked a worse time to have one of his worse games. He finished with just 12 points and missed all four of his 3-pt attempts. He also wasn’t able to help his team when they went on that late run in the 3rd quarter because he was ejected with six minutes arguing a call.
Charlotte shot just 38% from the field (34-90) and 32% from 3-pt (13-41).
The Hawks will now travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavs for the eighth and final playoff spot and the winner will face the top-seeded Miami Heat.
“This is a team that’s been playing really well all year and we just have to be ready to play” Young said on facing Cleveland.