Southeast Division rivals Charlotte and Atlanta will see a lot of each other over the final six weeks of the season. The two clubs from neighboring states play the first of three remaining games on Monday in Atlanta.
The Hornets (22-41) still cling to hopes of making the playoffs, but began Sunday play six games behind Orlando for eighth place in the NBA Eastern Conference.
The Hawks (19-46) are out of contention for the playoffs. They’ve lost three straight games but are 13-19 at home and have won eight of their last 11 games at State Farm Arena.
Atlanta won the only previous meeting against the Hornets, taking a 122-107 victory in Charlotte on Nov. 8. Trae Young had 30 points and nine assists in that game for Atlanta, with P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges each getting 20 for the Hornets.
The Hawks hope to have Young back to full strength for the game. The team’s leading scorer (29.4 points per game) did not play in Friday’s loss to Washington because of flu-like symptoms and was not at full strength when he tried to go on Saturday, and managed only 16 points against Memphis — 13.4 fewer than his season average — in the 118-101 loss to the Grizzlies.
“I definitely tried to fight back,” Young said. “I know everybody was kind of banged up with the back-to-back, so I wanted to come back and play.”
The Hawks struggled offensively vs. the Grizzlies, shooting just 33.7 percent from the floor. They were 3-for-18 to start and shot only 23.8 percent in the first quarter.
“We missed some wide-open shots,” Young said. “Shots just weren’t going in that we usually hit.”
Health has been an issue recently for the Hawks. Rookie Cam Reddish missed the Memphis game on March 2, came back to score a career-high 28 against Washington on Friday, but suffered cramping in his left leg on Saturday in the rematch with Memphis and did not play in the second half.
The Hornets broke a three-game losing streak on Saturday with a 108-99 win over the Houston Rockets. Charlotte scored the first 20 points of the game, as Houston committed eight turnovers and missed five 3-pointers on their first 12 possessions.
“This was a good one for us,” Washington said. “We felt like we should have won the last two (home losses to San Antonio and Denver), so just coming out with the same intensity that we did those last two games and it got us a win, so we’re trying to look to do that the rest of the season.”
Washington, the team’s first-round draft pick out of Kentucky, has enjoyed a solid rookie season. Washington has put together back-to-back 20-point games for the first time and is averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds. He has scored in double figures in six straight contests.
Charlotte’s top scorer is Terry Rozier, who is averaging career highs in points (17.6), assists (4.1), 3-point field goals (40 percent) and free throws (87.7 percent). Rozier scored 24 in the win over Houston. Rozier averages 8.9 points in 13 career games against Atlanta.
The two clubs finish the series with a game at Atlanta on April 3 and at Charlotte on April 5.
–Field Level Media