Charlotte Hornets wrapup: Sunday’s road game vs. Washington Wizards

By Richard Walker

Notes and observations from Sunday’s 115-110 Hornets’ road loss to the Washington Wizards that ended Charlotte’s regular season with a 33-39 record:

… As painful losses go, this has to rank right at the top in franchise history. With back-to-back days having the chance to wrap up the No. 8 seed in the NBA play-in tournament, Charlotte lost 118-109 in overtime at New York on Saturday and had double figure leads in the first three quarters and a 9-point lead in the fourth quarter before losing at Washington to drop to the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff. Charlotte now must win at Indiana on Tuesday, then win against the loser of Tuesday’s Washington at Boston game on Thursday to become the No. 8 seed and meet top-seeded Philadelphia.

… In Sunday’s defeat, Charlotte led by a game-high 16 points (32-16) in the first quarter, were ahead by as many as 14 in the second quarter, were ahead 84-69 in the third quarter and 92-83 early in the fourth quarter before squandering their 12th double digit lead of the season. The 16-point lead also was ties for the season’s largest lead in an eventual loss; The Hornets also led San Antonio at home on Feb. 14 by 16 points before losing 122-110.

… The loss also was the team’s fifth straight, which is this year’s longest losing streak. “These are the tough moments,” coach James Borrego said. “You just have to go through these moments and keep putting yourself in a position to be successful. It’s painful. But that pain brings excitement since we have a chance to play in the postseason.”

… Charlotte had the kind of offensive balance that would’ve seemed to give the Hornets a win; Terry Rozier (22 points) led seven double figure scorers – LaMelo Ball (19), Miles Bridges (17), Devonte’ Graham (15), Jalen McDaniels (13), P.J. Washington (11) and Cody Zeller (11) were the others – and Washington and Rozier had nine rebounds and Rozier had nine assists and Ball five.

… The Hornets missed its last seven shots and nine of its last 10. That includes Graham’s open 3-point look with 10 seconds lead to tie. “We had a chance,” Borrego said. “We had shots last night and we had shots tonight. Unfortunately, we didn’t make them.”

… Washington’s All-Star guard duo of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot just 14 of 42 overall (5-19 on 3-pointers). But Beal (25 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Westbrook (23 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists) still had enough to lead the Wizards to the comeback victory.

… Another key Wizards performer was backup guard Ish Smith. A former Central Cabarrus High and Wake Forest standout, Smith had 14 points off the bench for Washington and he had two key fourth quarter buckets as the Wizards outscored Charlotte 36-20 in the final period.

… Charlotte finished its season 16-18 at home and 15-21 on the road, 17-8 before the All-Star break and 16-21 after the All-Star break, 20-22 against the Eastern Conference and 13-17 against the Western Conference and 8-4 against the Southeast Division (with 2-1 records against Atlanta, Miami, Orlando and Washington).

What’s next: The Hornets visit the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with the winner advancing into Thursday’s final play-in contest. Washington visits Boston on Tuesday at 9 p.m. in the other play-in opener. The Washington-Boston winner gets the No. 7 Eastern Conference seed and Thursday’s winner gets the No. 8 seed.