Charlotte Hornets: Why they will thrive in the play-in tournament

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 09 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 09 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

The Charlotte Hornets have been all over the place in regards to the Eastern Conference standings this season. While the season is coming to a close, the Hornets are regaining health in their team as they build momentum for the approaching playoffs. The team has positioned themselves to be a contending team, however, they might have to go through the play-in tournament to do so.

With LaMelo Ball back in the lineup, the Charlotte Hornets are a team that will thrive in the play-in tournament.

For the Hornets to be successful in the play-in tournament, they need to regain some key players from injuries. Starting with LaMelo Ball, who made his return Saturday night against the Detroit Pistons after missing six weeks with a fractured wrist. Ball, who was the leading Rookie of the Year candidate prior to his injury, logged 11 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds in 28 minutes in his first game back on the court.

Charlotte outscored Detroit by 19 points in the 28 minutes that Ball was on the court. With Ball, the Hornets have a plethora of scoring opportunities at their disposal, which we saw in this game when Ball threw a perfect full-court underhanded lob to Miles Bridges who connected on an easy layup from right underneath the basket where he caught the pass.

The Hornets went 10-11 and fell into eighth place in a tight Eastern Conference without Ball. Although the Hornets played well in his absence, the return of Ball couldn’t have come at a better time for the team, whose path to the playoffs is most likely going to be through the play-in tournament.

It’s also worth mentioning that Malik Monk made his return to the court just in time for a playoff push after being sidelined with a right ankle sprain for a month. Charlotte head coach James Borrego recently said that LaMelo and Monk will be the difference-maker in a playoff series for the Hornets.

"“With Melo, we’ve lost a lot of pace, a lot of transition game, playmaking ability. Melo’s made a number of winning plays for us this entire season. His floor game, his ability to make others better, we’ve lost that and you have to put Monk in the same category. Both guys have the ability to create shots one-on-one, out of our pick-and-roll game or spread game. These are two guys that individually, can go make plays.” – James Borrego, via Sam Perly of"

Even though Ball made his return to the court, the Hornets are still without Gordon Hayward, who’s been sidelined since early April due to a sprained right foot. Hayward’s 19.6 points per game are still second on the team despite missing the last four weeks. There’s no doubt Hayward’s presence on the court would benefit Charlotte greatly during the playoffs.

The Charlotte Hornets are a team built to thrive in a three-game tournament while still regaining their health. With Ball and Terry Rozier running together, along with Bridges and Monk, the Hornets are a momentous enough team that can survive the three-game tournament.

Rozier deserves a lot of credit, as he’s led the way for the Hornets all season and put them in a great position to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. He’s averaging a team-high 20.4 points per game this season and has kept Charlotte’s playoff hopes alive.

Regardless of how young the Hornets are, they’ve been able to adapt with each other better than most teams this season. They’re extremely fast and can score in many different ways, which has benefited them in closing out games this season.

"“I look for these ten games to be our best of the season. I truly believe that. We’re in a great position right now to make our run. We’re going to get healthier, we’re fresh and off we go.” – James Borrego, via Sam Perly of"

The Charlotte Hornets will be tested with their next game against the Heat on Sunday night. But as coach Borrego said, the Hornets will only get better as they continue to get healthier and remain fresh as a team. Charlotte has nine games remaining and will look to build some momentum heading into the playoffs.

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