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The Charlotte Hornets are, admittedly, not in an ideal position. They entered Sunday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games behind the No. 8-seeded Miami Heat and holding just a 13 percent chance of leapfrogging Miami and Orlando to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NBA projections. All that mediocrity is shadowed by the impending unrestricted free agency of 28-year-old All-Star and franchise cornerstone, Kemba Walker.
Walker may already be gone, but missing the playoffs certainly isn’t going to help things.
Luckily, the Hornets don’t seem quite ready to give up on the postseason yet. Their Sunday night game with the Raptors ended with the Hornets winning, in the most improbable fashion.
If you happened to be on a skiing trip with crappy wi-fi this weekend, that win over the Raptors followed a Saturday night win over the Boston Celtics where Walker broke loose for 18 points in the fourth quarter and piled another bale of straw on the camel’s back of Kyrie Irving’s relationship with his coach and teammates.
Things don’t get any easier from here for Charlotte — they’ll need to come close to winning out to make the playoffs and among their nine remaining games they get Golden State, San Antonio, Utah, Detroit and Toronto, again. Still, rookie Miles Bridges has been sensational over this three-game winning streak (they also got Minnesota last Thursday), averaging 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game, shooting 60.6 percent from the field and hitting 6-of-11 3-pointers. Malik Monk and 23-year-old Dwayne Bacon have also made 14-of-23 3-pointers over the last 3-games.
A longshot playoff push and a few games of hot shooting from their young wings is probably not the best closing argument they could have made to Kemba Walker, but Charlotte is certainly better off than they were a few days ago.
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