The Atlanta Hawks will aim to record their 10th straight home victory on Thursday night when they vie for a season sweep of the Orlando Magic.
John Collins drained a go-ahead 3-pointer with 24.8 seconds remaining as the Hawks (39-31) overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to post a 120-116 win over the visiting Washington Wizards on Wednesday. Atlanta, which has won 17 of its past 19 games at State Farm Arena, clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
"I've been thinking about (the playoffs) all season, thinking about trying to get there," Collins said in a postgame interview with Bally Sports Southeast. "I've been talking about it, trying to push that into existence. ... It's gonna feel great."
The Hawks still have a bit of business to address before the start of the playoffs, however.
Atlanta resides in sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Miami Heat (38-31) and New York Knicks (38-31). A fourth-place finish would net the Hawks home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"These guys have stepped up and accomplished that (a postseason berth). I'm just thrilled to death that I could be a part of this," Atlanta interim coach Nate McMillan said.
Trae Young collected 33 points, nine assists and eight rebounds on Wednesday. He has reached the 30-point plateau in three straight games and five of his past seven.
"Coming into the season, we knew we wanted to do big things and get into the playoffs," Young told ESPN after the game. "We haven't been there in a while and we just have a lot of belief in each other."
Young is no stranger to mastering the Magic. He scored 32 points in Atlanta's 115-112 victory over Orlando on March 3 and added 25 more in a 112-96 triumph versus the Magic on April 20.
While the Hawks clearly are ascending, the Magic (21-48) are limping toward the finish line. Orlando dropped its fourth game in a row with a 114-102 setback to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
Cole Anthony scored 18 points and Moritz Wagner recorded his first double-double of 2020-21 and third career with 17 points and a season-high 13 rebounds.
"We did a lot of good things, defensively especially I think," Wagner said. "Offensively, I think we still could get into a better flow and continue to grow on that end. But, just like defensively, just have to keep going and stay the course."
Wendell Clark Jr. collected 14 rebounds in his return from a three-game absence due to an eye injury. Clark had 17 points and nine rebounds in Orlando's most recent loss to Atlanta.
The Magic signed Ignas Brazdeikis for the remainder of the season on Wednesday.
Brazdeikis, 22, has averaged 10.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists in five games since signing a 10-day contract on May 2.
--Field Level Media