Tonight at 8:0 p.m., the Charlotte Hornets (39-42) take the court for their final regular season game. Along with that - their hopes to make the NBA playoffs. As it stands, the Hornets, who sit one game behind the Pistons, need a win against the Orlando Magic (41-40) as well as a gift from Detroit to squeak into the eight and final playoff spot - the first time since 2016.
Orlando beat the Boston Celtics on Sunday and Brooklyn won on the road against the Indiana Pacers to lock up playoff spots and clear the way for the Hornets, Heat and Pistons to battle it out for the eighth spot. The mathematical possibility the Heat can make it in is extremely low, so tonight's game versus the Magic has become the biggest game of the year for Charlotte.
The Hornets have seen recent success due to the infusion of youth into the lineup. Coach James Borrego's decision to start some of his less experienced players has paid off. While Kemba Walker continues to lead the team with 25.4 points per game and 5.9 assists, and Jeremy Lamb has added some firepower, it is the maturation of Miles Bridges, Devonte' Graham, Dwayne Bacon and Malik Monk that have allowed the team to gain new confidence along with recent wins.
Coming into tonight's game, having won their last four games, including their most recent road game against the Pistons, the Hornets hope to use that momentum to derail Nikola Vučević and the Magic. The Magic average just over 107 points per game while the Hornets are earning more than 110 points but their stingy defense of late has the holding teams to just over 106 points per game compared to the Hornets' 111. So expect coach Borrego to push the interior defense to be hyper-focused tonight.
Charlotte owns the season series with Detroit and the head-to-head tiebreaker but the Hornets still need Detroit to lose. But Detroit faces the last-place New York Knicks who could prove to be easy prey.
It all goes down at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC tonight.