ATLANTA — Trae Young bounced back from a slow start to score 24 points and De’Andre Hunter led a third-quarter push that led the Atlanta Hawks to a 132-103 rout of the Charlotte Hornets in a playoff Eastern Conference Wednesday night.
The Hawks, who finished ninth in the East after a surprising run to the Conference Finals a year ago, travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Friday night.
The winner claims the No. 8 seed in the East and will face the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
The season is over for the Hornets, who were overwhelmed in the 9-10 playoff for the second straight year and haven’t made the playoffs since 2016.
All five Atlanta starters scored in double figures, as did Bogdan Bogdanovic off the bench. It was Hunter who came out on top in the decisive third period, exploding with 16 points after being held down to 3 in the first half.
Hunter finished with 22 points, while Danilo Gallinari added 18 and Clint Capela 15. Kevin Huerter and Bogdanovic added 13 points each.
The Hornets closed the regular season strong and felt like they had a good chance of winning a few qualifying games on the road. But those hopes were dashed against rival I-85.
LaMelo Ball led with 26 points but only made 7 of 25 shots.
The Hawks led by no less than 13 in the first half before settling for a 60-52 advantage at the break. Charlotte had some momentum in the final minutes of the half, but it certainly didn’t carry over into the third.
The Hawks outshot the Hornets 42-24 in that 12-minute shootout, shooting 16 of 24 and leading 102-76 heading into the final period.
With the Hornets doubling at every opportunity, Young shot just 1 of 9 in the first quarter and 3 of 13 in the first half.
But his teammates found plenty of open eyes and made the Hornets pay dearly.
Charlotte should have known what kind of night it would be on her way to State Farm Arena.
The Hornets’ charter bus was blocked by a freight train that stopped at a level crossing near the downtown sports complex. The bus had to turn around and take a different route to the arena, delaying Charlotte’s arrival for pre-game warm-ups.
It didn’t improve much once the game launched.
The Hornets’ frustration boiled over with about 6½ minutes to go when Miles Bridges complained so vehemently about a goalie call that he caught two quick techniques and was sent off.
Associated Press report.
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