Charlotte Hornets wrapup: Tuesday’s road playoff game vs. Indiana Pacers

By Richard Walker

Notes and observations from Tuesday’s 144-117 Hornets’ road loss to the Indiana Pacers that eliminated Charlotte from the NBA play-in tournament:

… Perhaps veteran Hornets center Cody Zeller summed up the disappointment he and his Charlotte teammates felt after losing Tuesday in a game Indiana never trailed and led by as many as 39 points. “In a 30-point loss, there’s nothing that goes right,” Zeller said.

… Unfortunatley for the Hornets, hardly anything did in a historic blowout loss that ends Charlotte’s season. The 27-point is the fourth-largest playoff defeat in franchise history. And the 144 points allowed are the most the Hornets yielded this season or in any of their postseason games in history. “These are the moments you learn from – and we’ll all do that including myself,” coach James Borrego said.

… It appeared a team that had suffered back-to-back emotional losses to end the season and land the Hornets as the last-place team of the play-in tournament instead of No. 8 if they had won either game was emotionally spent. The numbers tell the story of a team that slumped at the finish: 16 losses in the last 22 games, including six in a row. “I don’t look at tonight as a microcosm of this season,” Borrego said. “I’m not going to look at this team and that about just this game.”

… Indiana, which has dealt with injuries to frontline players like T.J. Warren and Myles Turner, found out midday that Caris LeVert would miss the game due to safety and health protocols. But the Pacers, who were making their sixth straight postseason and 10th appearance in the last 11 years, came out firing on all cylinders. “They had the energy, they had the focus and they had the poise,” Borrego said.

… Malcolm Brogdon, who had missed the last 10 games with a right hamstring injury, scored the game’s first bucket on a 3-pointer 37 seconds into contest. P.J. Washington’s 3-pointer tied the score nine seconds later but Justin Holiday’s free throw with 11:05 left in the first quarter gave Indiana the lead for good. The first 10-point lead came with 8:18 left in the opening quarter. The first 20-point lead came with 10:57 left in the second quarter. The first 30-point lead came with 4:24 left in the third quarter. And Indiana led by a game-high 39 points with 3:49 to play before Charlotte closed the game on a 17-5 run. “It’s tough to look at the positive side,” Hornets forward Miles Bridges said. “We got our (butt) whipped today. They played like they wanted it more. They bullied us.”

… Oshae Brissett’s 23 points led Indiana’s balanced offense. Doug McDermott added 21 points, with 16 of those coming in the game’s first 8 1-2 minutes of the game. Domantas Sabonis (14 points, 21 rebounds, 9 assists), T.J. McConnell (17 points) and Brogdon (16 points) were other contributors for an offense that converted 55.2 percent of its shots, including 16 of 35 on 3-pointers, and outrebounded Charlotte 54-36. “They punched us in the mouth early and kept going,” Borrego said.

… Bridges (23 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists), Zeller (17 points), Bridges (16 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists), LaMelo Ball (14 points, 4 assists) and Malik Monk (13 points) led Charlotte, which got a combined one of 16 3-point shooting from Rozier and Devonte’ Graham. ”

What’s next: Since the Hornets didn’t make the 16-team playoff field, they will get a lottery pick; Charlotte is slotted to pick No. 11 barring a lottery change. Also, the Hornets have five free agents in centers Zeller and Bismack Biyombo and guards Graham, Monk and Brad Wanamaker.