The Atlanta Hawks' nine-year playoff run stands as the longest in the Eastern Conference, and they know they'll open the postseason at home after making a run to last year's conference finals.
The Hawks, though, firmly reside in the second tier of NBA postseason teams – a clear reality with six of their last seven defeats coming against some of the league's top competition.
Washington is the only non-playoff team to beat them in that span, and the Wizards will try to send last year's second-round opponent into the postseason on a sour note with a home victory in Wednesday's night's season finale.
Atlanta (48-33) has gone 17-7 in its last 24, a stretch that includes two losses apiece to Golden State, Cleveland and Toronto. It had a three-game winning streak snapped with Monday's 109-94 road defeat to the Cavaliers, but it's guaranteed to finish third or fourth in the East after Boston fell to Charlotte later that night.
The Hawks will face one of those teams when the first round begins this weekend depending on how Miami finishes. They'll be looking to make another deep playoff run after Cleveland swept them out of the East finals last year despite a franchise-record 60-win season that gave them the No. 1 seed.
Monday's contest proved they have some work to do to reach the Cavaliers' level. Kent Bazemore scored 23 points, Jeff Teague had 21 and nine assists and Al Horford finished with 20 and 11 boards, but the Hawks' reserves managed only 18 points.
“We've got to find a way to get more from them,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “That's important to find some kind of rhythm with that group. I can do a better job with that.”
Bazemore shot 1 of 5 and scored two points in the second half.
“I've got to grow as a player,” Bazemore said. “Great players do it for 48 (minutes). I've got to tap back into that focus and try to keep it going.”
Bazemore shot 3 for 11 and totaled eight points in the previous two meetings with Washington (40-41), which won at Atlanta 117-102 behind 27 points and 14 assists from John Wall and 25 from Bradley Beal on March 21. The Hawks earned a split of the home-and-home set two nights later with a 122-101 victory.
Wall is hurting, though, much like he was when he missed three games in Atlanta's six-game victory in the second round last year. Right knee soreness has sidelined him for the last four after playing the first 77 games, and it doesn't appear he'll play in the season finale.
Beal also sat out Monday's 120-111 win over Brooklyn after injuring his pelvis early in Sunday's victory over Charlotte. The Wizards are still playing hard despite finishing up a disappointing season, as Ramon Sessions scored 21 points and added 12 assists on his 30th birthday.
Marcus Thornton started in place of Beal and finished with 19 points, helping Washington jump out to a 20-0 lead before hanging on.
''We knew at the end of the game if we continued to play that pace we'd be fine,'' said Sessions, averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 assists in Wall's absence. ''We just had to get some stops and we did in that second half.''
It's uncertain if Beal will be able to play as Washington attempts to finish .500 in three straight seasons for the first time since a four-year run from 2004-08.