The Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets will go head-to-head in an Eastern Conference play-in game for an opportunity to keep their seasons alive. Both teams finished the regular season with a 43-39 overall record, and finished ninth and tenth in the conference, respectively.
The winner of the contest between the Hawks and Hornets will move on to face the loser of the play-in game between the No.7 Brooklyn Nets and No. 8 Cleveland Cavaliers. The winner of that game will secure the eighth seed in the East, and an opportunity to face off against the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first round of the postseason.
Here's everything you need to know ahead of the play-in game between Atlanta and Charlotte.
(9) Atlanta Hawks vs. (10) Charlotte Hornets
- When: Wednesday, April 13 | 9 p.m. ET
- Where: State Farm Arena -- Atlanta, Georgia
- TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try free)
- Odds: ATL -4.5; O/U 237 (via Caesars sportsbook)
1. Meeting of two of the league's best young guards
The game between the Hawks and Hornets will serve as a showcase for two of the NBA's best, and most exciting, young guards -- Trae Young and LaMelo Ball. Young is a two-time All-Star who led the league in total points and total assists this season. Young became just the second player ever to lead the league in both points and assists in the same season. Tiny Archibald also accomplished the feat during the 1972-73 season. Young's ability to orchestrate the offense, especially in the pick-and-roll action, has been central to Atlanta's success this season, and slowing it down will be Charlotte's top task in the contest.
On the other side of the floor, you have Ball -- the NBA's reigning Rookie of the Year. Ball isn't quite as deadly as Young, yet, but he is similarly important to Charlotte's offensive attack. A whole lot of what the Hornets try to do on that end stems from Ball's ability to break down defenders and then find his teammates for open opportunities. Ultimately, whichever team does a better job on the other team's lead guard will have an advantage in the game.
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2. An even regular-season record
If the regular season head-to-head record between the two teams is any indication, this game has the potential to be a close one. The teams met four times during the regular season and they both won twice -- once on the road and once at home. The Hawks won the first meeting back in November, then the Hornets won one, then the Hawks again, and the Hornets then won the most recent meeting in March. The individual games were relatively close too, as they were determined by an average of 8.75 points. After a full 82 game schedule, both teams also finished with the exact same 43-39 record. Pretty even.
3. A battle of high-powered offenses
Neither of these teams are known for their defense, as both ranked in the bottom 10 on the side of the floor this season. Conversely, they both boast high-powered offenses, and that could work to make their play-in matchup an extremely high-scoring one. The Hawks had the second-rated offense in the league (115.4), while the Hornets were eighth 113.6). Both teams can put up points in bunches, and both have several players that can contribute at a high level. So ultimately, whichever team ends up being better defensively could very well win the game.
On paper, this one looks pretty even, as discussed above. However, there are two factors working in Atlanta's favor. One, they have the best overall player in the matchup in Trae Young. The saying that 'star players matter more in the playoffs' is a common cliché, but it's true, and Young is good enough to swing a game -- and even an entire series -- himself, as we saw last season.
The second thing working in Atlanta's favor is experience. They are fresh off of a run to the Eastern Conference finals last season; a run that included a series victory over the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers. The Hawks have that big-game experience, and we know that the stage won't be too big for them. Pick: Hawks -4.5