There wasn't any bubbly being popped in the Charlotte Hornets locker room or expensive champagne being poured over the top of someone's dome Tuesday night.
Even with the proposition of still potentially clinching a spot in next week's play-in tournament minutes after their comeback bid against Denver fell short in a 112-107 defeat at Spectrum Center, the Hornets weren't in a mood to bust out the pom-poms in glee.
"No room for celebration, no," said coach James Borrego, who picked up his first career ejection in the third quarter after receiving a pair of technical fouls. "We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to get better. … Right now he focus is on us and getting better, and that’s what we’ll do."
It wasn't long after Borrego uttered those words when the result the Hornets were hoping for was locked in: by virtue of Chicago losing to Brooklyn, it clinched Charlotte's place in the play-in tournament. With three games remaining to sharpen things and solidify the best possible seed, the Hornets find themselves tied for eighth with Indiana leading into Wednesday's action.
Charlotte holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Pacers, giving them the upper hand at the moment. But they are also just a game ahead of 10th-place Washington, which is certainly something to keep a watchful eye on since the Hornets meet the LA Clippers and New York prior to closing their regular season against the Wizards on Sunday.
Taking all that into consideration, they weren't feeling very euphoric.
"No, not at all," said Devonte' Graham, who scored a season-high 31 points in his return after missing four games. "We've got to figure out ways to close out games and find the little things and just play better overall. We don't want to put our destiny in nobody else's hands. We want to control our future. So I don't like to think like that. I want to control what we can control and not worry about other people."
They'll get their wish because their seeding fate rests in their hands.
Quotable: “Obviously, we were able to beat them at our place and it was a close game early, and then we were able to pull away. I thought that probably wasn’t one of his better games of the year. I’m sure you’d probably agree with that, but when you watch the film of him in preparation for our game and when you watch highlights throughout the season, he has a tremendous feel for the game. And what I love and what I’m a fan of is his passing ability, his creativity, his flare and his ability to make all of his teammates better. And obviously, he has a very, very bright future ahead of himself. He’s playing for a great head coach in James Borrego, who I think is handling him extremely well with all of the expectations coming in. I think the Rookie of the Year race will be really interesting. You have LaMelo Ball, you have Tyrese Haliburton out in Sacramento, and you have Anthony Edwards in Minnesota. All three are talented players. But this kid is a special, young talent and you don’t see that kind of passing ability from young players like this very often.” -- Denver coach Michael Malone on LaMelo Ball
Noteworthy: The Hornets dropped to 11-29 when they fail to shoot better than their opponent. Denver nailed 49.4 percent of their shots compared to Charlotte's 46.2 percent.
Up next: vs. LA Clippers, 7 p.m. Thursday