Playoff Preview: Hawks set to host Hornets in play-in

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The Hawks concluded the 2021-22 regular season with a victory over the reeling Rockets, 130-114, on Sunday. Trae Young led Atlanta with 28 points and 11 assists, while Danilo Gallinari put up 26 points of his own.

The Hawks were heavy favorites entering the matchup, given Houston boasts the NBA’s worst record. Rockets’ rookie Jalen Green put up an eye-popping 41, but it wasn’t enough to keep this one close. Now, the play-in is set — Atlanta will host Charlotte Wednesday night.

The Hornets and Hawks will meet for the fifth time this season for the right to play the loser of the 7/8 play-in game. The Hawks have won 11 of their last 12 games at State Farm Arena and are 19-3 since mid-January, but the Hornets are one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of 11 of its final 16 games of the season.

After Sunday’s slate of games, the two teams finished with identical 43-39 records. Since they split the four-game season series, the tiebreaker went to Atlanta because they went 9-7 against the Southeast division while the Hornets went 8-8 in division play.

Early odds have the Hawks as 4- to 5-point favorites, depending on the betting outlet. The matchup will include two of the brightest young stars in LaMelo Ball and Trae Young, and these teams know each other very well.

The Hawks’ offense will face a variety of defensive sets, given Charlottes’ versatile personnel. Likewise, Atlanta’s defense will face similar challenges against the Hornets’ offense. They have shooters up and down the roster as well as multiple players who can ignite the offense and catch fire scoring.

The Hornets are fast, pressing up and down the court. They want to push the tempo on offense and cycle through sets on the defensive end of the court — box-and-one, zone, man-to-man, and full-court press.┬áThe Hawks will have a difficult road to the playoffs, but Trae Young is a different beast when the lights are brightest. Atlanta should also be very familiar with this situation as a team, given their playoff experience from last season.

Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

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