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LaMelo Ball, Hornets Secure 2021 NBA Play-in Game Spot for Chance at Playoffs

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2021

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball shoots over Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

The Charlotte Hornets may have lost to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, 117-112, but it was a good evening nonetheless. 

That's because the Chicago Bulls also lost on Tuesday, meaning the Hornets clinched a berth in the NBA's first ever play-in tournament. 

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With the Bulls' loss, the Hornets have secured a spot in the Play-In Tournament. https://t.co/4sgQ9Z4ItA

The Hornets (33-36) currently sit in the No. 8 spot and hold the same record as the Indiana Pacers, though they hold the tiebreaker. If that holds, the Hornets would essentially have two chances to qualify for the playoffs: A matchup against the Boston Celtics (35-34) in the first play-in game for the No. 7 seed, and if they lost that, a matchup against either the Pacers or likely the Washington Wizards for the No. 8 seed. 

Despite the fact that Charlotte can't finish the regular season with a winning record, it's nonetheless been a successful year. LaMelo Ball has looked like the best rookie in the 2020-21 class and likely would have hoisted the Rookie of the Year Award had he not missed 22 games due to injury (he might anyway, though Minnesota's Anthony Edwards makes a strong case). 

The offseason signing of Gordon Hayward has also paid dividends, even if injuries have kept him off the court for the past month. And players like P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges, among others, have taken positive strides. 

Should the Hornets get into the postseason, they won't threaten top teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. The talent disparity is too great. But they'll be pesky, and if nothing else it will be excellent experience for the team's younger players. 

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Granted, they'll have to get through the new play-in tournament first. But on balance, the Hornets can come away from this season feeling pretty good about their progress after going 23-42 a year ago. 

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