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The Charlotte Hornets’ first postseason game since 2016 was a disaster.
The Hornets gave up 69-first-half points to the Indiana Pacers, trailed by 30 with four minutes left in the third quarter, and lost 144-117 Tuesday in an NBA play-in game.
The Hornets ended their season with six consecutive losses to finish 33-40. Charlotte forward Miles Bridges finished with 23 points and eight rebounds.
The Hornets were overwhelmed by injuries the past two months, losing long stretches for LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk.
Small forward Hayward, the Hornets’ $120 million free agent acquisition, never played again after suffering a sprained foot against the Pacers on April 2. The Hornets went 8-17 in games after Hayward was injured.
“The reality is we’ve been disrupted,” Hornets coach James Borrego said pregame of the injuries’ collective effect. “We’ve lost rhythm and continuity.”
The Hornets trailed 69-45 at halftime. Their defense was so bad — they gave up 10-of-20 shooting from 3-point range — that the Pacers’ Twitter account mocked them in the first quarter.
After Doug McDermott — nicknamed “McBuckets” for his jump-shooting accuracy — made a couple of first-quarter 3s, the Pacers tweeted, “Looks like they forgot the scouting report. Doug McDermott = elite shooter.”
McDermott had 20 first-half points, making 7-of-8 attempts overall and 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
The Hornets have a history this season of giving up numerous open 3-point looks. Borrego said in the preseason that he’d given up on trying to pay equal attention to the post and the 3-point arc defensively. So he was prepared to concede some open 3s to avoid constantly giving up 50-some points in the lane.
Indiana’s 69 first-half points were only four short of tying the most the Hornets allowed in a half this season. They allowed 73 on the road Jan. 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Borrego changed his starting lineup for this game, moving in defender Bismack Biyombo at center. P.J. Washington opened at power forward and Miles Bridges at small forward. That meant Jalen McDaniels was out as a starter.
The apparent intent in starting Biyombo was looking to slow down Pacers big man Donantas Sabonis initially. While Sabonis had a bad shooting half, making just 1-of-8 attempts from the field, he had 12 rebounds and five assists in the first half. All the defensive attention Charlotte paid to Sabonis inside left Indiana’s spot-up shooters wide open.
As bad as Charlotte’s defense was in the first half, the offense was little better. Terry Rozier, one of the few Hornets with significant postseason experience, needed to excel and sure didn’t, shooting 3 of 11 from the field and 0 of 6 from 3-point range in the first first half.
Ball, front-runner for NBA Rookie of the Year, shot 1 of 4 in the first half. He had no assists and three turnovers in 14 first-half minutes.