Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Atlanta Nails Down Fourth Seed in East

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Atlanta Nails Down Fourth Seed in East

Article excerpt

Josh Smith scored 23 points and the Atlanta Hawks clinched home- court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 106-80 victory Thursday night against the Dallas Mavericks in the regular- season finale.

The Hawks (40-26), who raced to a 23-point lead in the opening quarter, wrapped up the fourth-best record in the East and will play host to Boston Sunday. The defending NBA champion Mavericks (36-30) open the playoffs Saturday at Oklahoma City.

Atlanta pounced on the Mavericks right from the tip, making 16 of 23 shots (69.6 percent) in the opening period. Smith had the outside jumper working and seemed to be everywhere, scoring 12 points, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out five assists and making a steal. A 28-7 run, capped by Willie Green's 3-pointer, pushed the lead to 36-13.

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 22 points. Dallas wasn't nearly as dominant coming off its first NBA title, finishing far behind the top seeds in the West, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. With only its first-round opponent in doubt, the Mavericks had little to play for in Atlanta -- and their performance reflected it.

The Hawks led, 60-44, at halftime and held off a brief spurt by the Mavericks at the start of the third quarter, capping a season in which Atlanta improved on its winning percentage from 2011 even after losing All-Star center Al Horford early in the lockout- shortened year. Horford, who is still recovering from pectoral surgery, has ruled himself out for the Boston series but still hopes to play if the Hawks advance from the opening round for the fourth year in a row.

Other games

* Bulls 107, Cavaliers 75: John Lucas III scored a career-high 25 points, Joakim Noah had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and host Chicago clinched the top overall seed in the playoffs by beating Cleveland. The Bulls open the postseason against the Philadelphia 76ers.

* Wizards 104, Heat 70: Playing without their Big Three, visiting Miami suffered its worst defeat of the season. With Miami locked into the No. …

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