Tagged in: last summer

Young, Hunter lead Hawks to 132-103 play-in rout of Hornets

For one night, at least, the Atlanta Hawks looked like the team that made a stunning run to the Eastern Conference final last summer.

Trae Young bounced back from a sluggish start to score 24 points and De’Andre Hunter led a third-quarter surge Wednesday that carried the Hawks to a 132-103 rout of the Charlotte Hornets in a play-in game.

“We’re definitely confident right now,” Hunter said. “But we’ve got a lot more work to do. We’re not satisfied yet.”

The Hawks were a bit of a disappointment during the regular season, concluding ninth in the East after their surprising playoff success in 2021.

They’ve still got to win one more play-in game just to make the playoffs, heading 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 opening round of the playoffs.

The season is over for the Hornets, who were overwhelmed in the 9-10 play-in game for the second year in a row and haven’t made the playoffs since 2016.

Still, coach James Borrego called it another step forward for a rebuilding team. “A lot of good things have happened for this franchise based on where we’re at today compared to where we were two or three years ago,” he stated.

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Miles Bridges was ejected in the fourth quarter and could be facing additional punishment from the league office after he appeared to strike a young fan with his mouthpiece.

All five Atlanta starters scored in double figures, as did Bogdan Bogdanovic off the bench. 

It was Hunter who came up big in the decisive third period, bursting out with 16 points after being held to 3 in the first half.

“I think I’m a big part of this team,” Hunter said. ”Me being aggressive, scoring and defending, helps this team a lot.”

Hunter ended with 22 points, while Danilo Gallinari added 18 and Clint Capela 15. Kevin Huerter and Bogdanovic chipped in with 13 apiece.

The Hornets closed the regular season strong and felt like they had a good opportunity to win a couple of play-in games on the road. But those hopes came crashing down versus their I-85 rival.

LaMelo Ball led Charlotte with 26 points on 7-of-25 shooting.

The Hawks led by 13 in the first half before settling for a 60-52 advantage at the break. Charlotte had a bit of momentum in the closing minutes of the half, but it sure didn’t carry over to the third.

The Hawks outscored the Hornets 42-24 during that 12-minute barrage, hitting 16 of 24 shots, and led 102-76 heading to the final period.

With the Hornets doubling at every opportunity, Young made only 1 of 9 shots in the opening quarter and 3 of 13 in the first half.

But his teammates found plenty of open looks and made the Hornets pay dearly.

“It’s great for my team,'” said Young, who had 11 assists. “If you can make two guys guard you, it only opens up the floor for everybody else. I have to embrace it.”

Charlotte should’ve known what kind of night it would be on their way to State Farm Arena.

The Hornets’ chartered bus was blocked by a freight train that stopped on a 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 pregame warmups. It didn’t get much better once the game tipped off.

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Kyle Hendricks to once again start on Opening Day for Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs manager David Ross selected Kyle Hendricks to start on Opening Day last year, and it worked out quite well.

He sees no reason to make a modification this year.

Ross announced Tuesday that Hendricks will get the ball when the Cubs start the season versus Pittsburgh on April 1 at Wrigley Field. The right-hander tossed a three-hitter in a 3-0 triumph over Milwaukee on Opening Day last summer.

“I feel like we’ve got a lot of talent,” Ross said. “I feel like Kyle, his resume, his leadership, his poise, all that goes into being the Opening Day starter, just the extra, kind of, pomp and circumstance that goes with Opening Day, especially this coming year as well, every arrow points to Kyle.”

Ross said he wasn’t ready to announce the order for the rest of his starting pitchers. Chicago also has Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies, and Trevor Williams, Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Shelby Miller are in the mix for the last two spots.

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But there is no question about the leader of the rotation, especially after the Cubs traded Yu Darvish to San Diego in December.

The 31-year-old Hendricks, known for his precision, control and professor-like demeanor, is making his second Opening Day start.

He went 6-5 with a 2.88 ERA in 12 starts during the pandemic-shortened season, helping Chicago win the NL Central.

The opener versus the Pirates will be the first match at Wrigley with a crowd since Sept. 22, 2019. The Cubs have been cleared for as many as 8,274 fans per game at the beginnig of the season.

Hendricks has been a steady presence for Chicago since his big league debut in 2014. The Dartmouth graduate is 69-48 with a 3.12 ERA in 175 career games.

He had his best year in 2016, going 16-8 with a major league-low 2.13 ERA. Hendricks, an eighth-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft, was acquired by Chicago in the July 2012 trade that sent Ryan Dempster to Texas.

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