Trae Young scored 33 points and John Collins hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 24.4 seconds remaining Wednesday night, rallying Atlanta to a 120-116 victory over the Washington Wizards to clinch the Hawks’ first playoff berth since 2017.
Atlanta came into the night tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and looking to solidify home-court advantage in the opening round.
That’s still up in the air, but the Hawks are definitely headed to the playoffs after going through a painful, massive rebuilding job that still appeared to be a work in progress when the team fired coach Lloyd Pierce shortly before the All-Star break while mired at 14-20.
Under interim coach Nate McMillan, who should receive strong consideration in the coach of the year balloting, the Hawks have posted a 25-11 mark to stamp themselves as a dangerous opponent heading into the postseason.
“We clinched, baby!” the public address announcer screamed after the horn sounded.
Russell Westbrook scored 34 points and dished out 15 assists, but it wasn’t enough to prevent another excruciating loss for the Wizards, whose last five defeats have been by a total of 10 points.
Two nights after breaking Oscar Roberson’s record with his 182nd career triple-double, Westbrook came up a bit short of No. 183. He was held to five rebounds.
Nets 128, Spurs 116 — At New York: James Harden had 18 points and 11 assists in his return from an 18-game absence to help Brooklyn beat San Antonio. Coming off the bench in an NBA game for the first time since he won the league’s Sixth Man award for Oklahoma City in 2011-12, Harden also had seven rebounds after the longest layoff of his career, missing more than a month because of a strained right hamstring.
Cavaliers 102, Celtics 94 — At Cleveland: Kevin Love scored a season-high 30 points, Collin Sexton added 28 and Cleveland snapped an 11-game losing streak in their home finale, locking the Celtics into a spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament.