ATLANTA (AP) – After watching the playoffs for the past two years, Trae Young can’t wait to see what it’s like to dress in the playoffs.
Young scored 33 points and John Collins nodded at 3 points with 24.4 seconds left on Wednesday night, rallying Atlanta to a 120-116 win over the Washington Wizards to clinch the Hawks’ first playoff spot since 2017.
âI felt like I didn’t get the recognition and the guys on my team didn’t get the recognition we deserve,â said Young. âBut it comes with victory. … We are here now.
Atlanta entered the evening tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference and were looking to consolidate their field advantage in the first round.
It’s still pending, but the Hawks are definitely heading into the playoffs after going through massive rebuilding work that still seemed like a work in progress when the team fired coach Lloyd Pierce shortly before the break. of the All-Stars when he was bogged down at 14. -20.
Under interim coach Nate McMillan, who is expected to receive high consideration in the Coach of the Year poll, the Hawks posted a 25-11 score to establish themselves as a dangerous opponent heading into the playoffs.
âIt shows we’ve always had it,â Young said. “We just needed to believe in each other and go out there and do it.”
Russell Westbrook scored 34 points and distributed 15 assists, but that wasn’t enough to prevent another excruciating loss for the Wizards, whose last five losses have totaled 10 points.
The Wizards are still 10th in the East, good enough for last place in the new NBA play-in tournament for the playoffs. But two consecutive defeats in Atlanta – they lost 125-124 on Monday – thwarted hopes of progress.
“We are (ticked off), as we should be,” said Davis Bertans. âThose two games were important for us to get closer to eighth and have a better shot in the playoffs.
Two nights after breaking Oscar Roberson’s record with his 182nd career triple-double, Westbrook came a little short of number 183. He was limited to five rebounds.
The Wizards were up 100-87 – their biggest lead of the night – when Bertans knocked down a 3-point with just over 10 minutes to go.
âIt was one of those times when we kind of had to push and extend the lead, instead of letting them come back into the game,â said Bertans.
After missing a few 3s that could have put them forward, the Hawks finally knocked down one.
Clint Capela started off with a block on Westbrook, sending the Hawks on a quick break in the other direction. Young spotted Collins all alone in the corner for the 3 which put the Hawks in the lead 117-116.
âI knew it was going to come in,â Young said with a smile.
Raul Neto missed a 10-foot jumper for Washington. Solomon Hill rebounded, was fouled and knocked down both free throws.
The Wizards gasped again, but Bertans missed a long 3 from the top of the key. Collins was fouled and sealed the win with a free throw.
Collins finished with 18 points. Bogdan Bogdanovic had 20 for the Hawks.
Washington has been held scoreless for the last two and a half minutes, missing its last eight shots.
âWe stayed together and kept doing what we needed to do, which was to get some defensive saves,â said McMillan. “Then the offense started making baskets.”
McMillan noted that the Hawks gave up 45 points to the Wizards in the fourth quarter on Monday. They beat the Wizards 37-25 in the last 12 minutes this time around.
âIt took 48 minutes to do it, but we did it,â said the coach.
Hill played less than 10 minutes, but McMillan called him âthe player of the game for usâ.
That late rebound and the free throws that followed – Hill’s only points of the night – helped secure the victory.
âA lot of guys are sitting on the sidelines pouting because they’re not playing,â McMillan said. “You never know when your name might be called, but you have to be good to go.”
Wizards: G Bradley Beal (left hamstring strain) will be reassessed Friday after missing both games in Atlanta. Beal did some light drills on the pitch before the game, which coach Scott Brooks described as âthe next step in the right directionâ. … Alex Len had 10 rebounds as Washington did a better job on the boards after being passed 55-42 on Monday.
Hawks: Won their ninth consecutive home game and improved to 17-2 in their last 19 appearances at State Farm Arena. … Young has scored at least 30 points in three straight games and five of his last seven. … F De’Andre Hunter hasn’t played as the Hawks want to make sure he’s fully recovered from a knee injury that caused him to miss 47 of 49 games. He came back from his second long bet walked Monday, playing 13 1/2 minutes, but was held up Wednesday.
Wizards: Return home for their last two games of the regular season, facing the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
Hawks: Play their penultimate game of the regular season when they host the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.
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