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Hawks heavily-backed play-in favorites against Hornets

Sportsnaut
Dec 5, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) dribbles the ball as Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington (25) defends in the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks were frequently tight in the standings this season.

Yet their games against each other haven’t always been close matchups.

But just winning is the objective for Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference play-in game in Atlanta.

“We are going to do everything we can (to move on),” Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “Playoff mindset, and we are ready.”

This matchup pits the No. 9 seed Hawks against the No. 10 seed Hornets for the right to advance to another game.

The Hawks opened as 4.5-point favorites at BetMGM but the line had moved to 5.5 by Wednesday with Atlanta backed by 62 percent of the spread-line bets and 70 percent of the handle. The line is 5.0 at DraftKings, where the Hawks have also drawn one-sided action with 60 and 73 percent, respectively.

Both teams posted 43-39 records during the regular season. The game is being played in Atlanta based on seeding tiebreakers, with the Hawks having a better divisional record after the teams split four head-to-head meetings.

Charlotte won by margins of three and 10 points. Atlanta’s victories came by 10 and 22 points.

“You go through highs and lows and you figure it out together,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “That’s what we did this season. Eighty-two-game season, there were highs and lows and we got better throughout the season.”

The Hawks were certainly aiming for a better regular season after reaching the conference finals last season. This is a chance to make up for some of that.

Atlanta guard Trae Young was limited to a season-low nine points in the last meeting with Charlotte. The Hornets know he’s capable of breaking out and having a huge game.

“We can’t give him no light,” Hornets guard Terry Rozier said. “We can’t give him no confidence. He’s a pretty confident player but we just have to make it tough for him.”

Young led the NBA in total points and assists this season. He averaged 28.4 points across 76 games for the fourth-best mark in the league.

“I feel like it’s too easy for him,” Bogdanovic said. “The shots he makes, the way he makes them. I’m proud of him.”

Charlotte has a dynamic young guard as well in LaMelo Ball, who was last season’s Rookie of the Year. Teammate Miles Bridges is Charlotte’s leading scorer at 20.2 points per game, Ball is next at 20.1 and Rozier is close by at 19.3.

Just like last season, Charlotte is in the play-in portion of the Eastern Conference holding the No. 10 seed.

The Hornets have credentials. Their regular-season win total is the most for a 10th-place team in either the Eastern Conference or Western Conference in 21 years.

“The East got better and we got better,” Borrego said. “Now, we’ve got a shot to keep moving forward. Our season is not over. We’ve just put ourselves in position to continue our season, have a meaningful game on the road and I’m excited for our group.”

Atlanta racked up a 27-14 home record during the regular season.

“It doesn’t guarantee anything,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said.

Charlotte posted a 21-20 road record.

The Hornets will continue to be without forward Gordon Hayward because of an ankle injury. He also didn’t play in Charlotte’s 116-106 victory against Atlanta on March 16 because of a previous injury. Ball’s 22 points and Montrezl Harrell’s 20 points led the offense in that game.

The Over/Under market at BetMGM has moved from 236.5 to 235.5 points with the Under backed by 63 percent of the bets and 67 percent of the action. Similarly, the 235.5-point line at DraftKings has drawn 63 percent of the handle to the Under while the Over has been backed by 53 percent of the bets.

The loser of this contest is finished for the season. The winner goes on the road to face the loser of Tuesday night’s Cleveland-Brooklyn game in another elimination game Friday night.

–Field Level Media