ATLANTA (AP) — 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.
The Wizards were up 100-87 — matching their biggest lead of the night — when Davis Bertans knocked down a 3-pointer off a dish from Westbrook with just over 10 minutes remaining.
It didn't hold up.
After missing a couple of 3s that could've put them ahead, the Hawks finally knocked one down.
Clint Capela got it started with a block on Westbrook, sending the Hawks on a fast break the other way. Young spotted Collins all alone in the corner for the 3 that put the Hawks ahead 117-116.
Raul Neto missed a 10-foot jumer for Washington. Solomon Hill rebounded, was fouled and knocked down both free throws.
The Wizards had one more gasp, but Bertans missed a long 3 from the top of the key. Collins was fouled and sealed the victory by making one of two free throws with 3.7 seconds left.
Collins finished with 18 points. Bogdan Bogdanovic had 20 for the Hawks.
Washington was held scoreless over the final 2 1/2 minutes, missing its final eight shots.
Atlanta beat the Wizards for the second time in three nights. On Monday, Washington came up just short in a furious comeback from a 17-point deficit heading to the fourth quarter, losing 125-124 as Westbrook missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer.
Wizards: G Bradley Beal (left hamstring strain) will be re-evaluated Friday after missing both games in Atlanta. “Brad wants to get back out there,” coach Scott Brooks said. “He's tough as nails.” Beal did some light drills on the court before the game, which Brooks described as “the next step progressing in the right direction.”
Hawks: Young has scored at least 30 points in three straight contests and five of his last seven games. He has reached that mark 22 times this season. ... Won their ninth straight home game and improved to 17-2 over their last 19 appearances at State Farm Arena.
Wizards: Return home for their final two games of the regular season, facing the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
Hawks: Play their next-to-last game of the regular season when they host the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.
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Paul Newberry, The Associated Press