After LaMelo Ball broke his wrist, everyone crossed off the Hornets. Then Gordon Hayward got injured, and some predicted a full-on tank job. Last night, the Hornets easily handled the Celtics, winning 125 - 104, and are now only 1.5 games back from the 6th seed and out of the play-in tournament. Last night's victory was that much more important because it is held by the Celtics, but even the win wasn't the best news of the day for Charlotte.
“I'm told Charlotte is probably a week away from getting LaMelo Ball back in the lineup. He went out with that fractured wrist, recovered faster than they imagined - they thought he might be out for the season. Ball wants to play; he pushed to come back. Not only do they get Ball back as soon as next weekend, but Malik Monk is on a similar timetable. Gordon Hayward, who was having an outstanding season for Charlotte, they expect to have him back before the playoffs.”
Adrien Wojnarowski, NBA Countdown
Getting LaMelo, Hayward and Monk is huge for the Hornets. Next to the Knicks, they are the surprise of the season, and other teams can't be too happy the Hornets are firmly in the playoff picture. Woj and Jalen Rose still think they will be in the play-in and made his prediction of the outcome of the new addition to the playoff format. To remind you, the 7 and 8 seed play for the 7th spot. Then the loser of that game plays the winner of 9-10 for the 8th spot. Here's how Rose sees the standings after all regular-season games are played.
7. Miami Heat
8. Charlotte Hornets
9. Indiana Pacers
10. Washington Wizards
Basically, Jalen thinks the status quo will continue until the end of the season. Then, the 7 and the 8 seed play - Jalen thinks Miami will win that game and go into the Playoffs as the 7th seed. In the 9 - 10 matchup, Rose thinks the Wizards will win and get the chance to win that 8th spot against the Hornets. But, with LaMelo and Hayward back, Rose predicts a Hornets victory. What about the West?
7. Portland Trail Blazers
8. Memphis Grizzlies
9. San Antonio Spurs
10. Golden State Warriors
What a monster group. Rose and Woj have the Grizzlies grabbing that 7th spot and then predicts a must-watch game for the 8th seed between the Blazers and the Warriors. If we get Dame vs. Steph in a winner-goes-to-the-playoffs situation, that could be one of the most viewed games of the entire season.
Most teams have about 12 games left to play in the season, and the race to avoid the play-in altogether and the battle for positioning inside that play-in bracket is as close as possible. We're gonna be monitoring the situation daily for what is promising to be a tremendous few days of basketball in May. Hopefully, with a fully healthy Charlotte Hornets team in the mix.