The Atlanta Hawks will be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Coming into Tuesday evening, the one certainty was that Mike Budenholzer’s team would clinch that perch in the pecking order with a victory and, 48 minutes later, that was a reality. The Hawks dominated virtually from wire to wire and, in the end, that performance was good for a 103-76 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
Dwight Howard was a force in the early going, scoring 10 of the first 12 points for the Hawks with activity around the rim. Later in the first quarter, the Hawks zoomed to a 16-4 run and that helped to key what became a 12-point lead after 12 minutes of play.
Atlanta was not done there, outscoring Charlotte by a 12-3 margin to begin the second quarter and that gave the home team a 21-point cushion. From there, it was an exercise in lead maintenance until halftime, but the Hawks were excellent on offense to the tune of some video game numbers.
That included 70.6 percent shooting from the floor, 55 percent shooting from beyond the arc and a solid 9 of 11 clip from the free throw line. All told, the Hawks scored at a clip of 1.35 points per possession and that was more than enough to provide the hefty margin.
Following the break, the Hawks quickly built their advantage to 29 (!) points with a 14-4 run. While the Hornets would answer with nine straight points, that was the extent of the “threat” from Charlotte and Atlanta managed to hold a 23-point lead at the end of the third period.
From there, it was simply academic, as the Hawks led by a (very) roomy margin for the duration. The fourth quarter was largely occupied by Malcolm Delaney, Kris Humphries and others, with the home team holding on for a 27-point victory.
With the win, the Hawks will officially face off with the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs. The NBA, as customary, will release the playoff schedule following the completion of Wednesday’s full slate but Atlanta and Washington will kick things off this weekend in the nation’s capital.