Atlanta Hawks Continue Late Season Surge

The Atlanta Hawks got their first victory of the season against Charlotte to lock up the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, setting up a first-round matchup against the Wizards.

The Atlanta Hawks picked a perfect night to secure its first victory of the season against Southeast Division rival Charlotte.

After losing the first three contests of the season against the Hornets, the only Eastern Conference opponent it had yet to defeat this season, by an average of 9.0 points per game, Atlanta grabbed a 103-76 victory Tuesday night.

The win secured the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference playoff race, setting up a first-round playoff matchup with another Southeast Division foe in Washington.

The Hawks throttled Charlotte by 27 points, matching their second-largest margin of victory this season. Atlanta defeated the 76ers by 34 points during its second game of the year, while also defeating Orlando and Memphis by a margin of 27 points.

The 76 points were the second-fewest points the team has allowed this season, an impressive feat from a team ranking fourth in defensive efficiency this season, as Charlotte was held to 33 percent shooting from the field and 13 percent from 3-point range.

While the defense supplied the Hawks with their 43rd victory of the season, Dwight Howard managed to catapult the offense Tuesday night.

Howard scored 10 of the first 12 points of the game for Atlanta, part of a 19-point, 12-rebound effort in just 25 minutes.

The double-double effort was the 53rd of the season for Howard, the sixth-highest total in the league this season.

All Howard needed was nine shot attempts, as he connected on seven of them, to rack up 19 points, setting the tone for the rest of the team against Charlotte.

Atlanta connected on 70.6 percent of its shot attempts in the first half, the second-best shooting performance of any half this season.

Seemingly at any point, the Hawks could manipulate the defense any way they wanted for easy baskets.

The team shot 51.9 percent from the field and dished out 30 assists on 41 made shots from the field.

All 13 players on the Hawks roster spent at least nine minutes on the floor and made at least one field goal attempt in the regular-season home finale, while seven managed to shoot 50 percent or better.

Guard Thabo Sefolosha played for the first time since March 24, as he missed eight consecutive games with a strained right groin, marking the first time in several weeks the entire Hawks’ roster was available to play.

Charlotte never threatened after falling behind by 19 points at halftime, enabling coach Mike Budenholzer to empty his bench in an attempt to provide additional rest for his starting lineup as its prepares for a playoff series against the Wizards beginning this weekend.

Point guard Dennis Schroder spent the most time on the floor for Atlanta, as he logged 26 minutes, 6.5 less than his regular-season average.

The victory was the fourth in a row for Atlanta, featuring a win over the Celtics, along with consecutive triumphs against the defending champion Cavaliers, along with Tuesday’s dominant showing against the Hornets.

The Hawks managed to clinch the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, capping an incredible turnaround to the end of the season.

Atlanta was on the verge of failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in nine years when a seven-game losing streak left the team one game better than .500 on March 26.

The Hawks have since won six of its last eight games and managed to hold off Milwaukee for the right to play the Wizards in the opening round of the 2017 NBA playoffs beginning this weekend.

Washington won the season series with the Hawks 3-1, with the lone victory for Atlanta coming on opening night.

The regular season comes to an end for Atlanta Wednesday night in Indiana, a meaningless contest for the Hawks, but a very significant matchup for the Pacers, a team trying to cling to seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Tuesday night the Hawks solidified their place in the Eastern Conference standings and sent notice to Washington about their potency on both ends of the floor.

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