|Hawks' Josh Smith (24 points) shoots over the Knicks' Wilson Chandler in Atlanta's victory. (FRANK FRANKLIN II/Associated Press)|
In control of their fate, the Hawks headed home for a game that could serve as both a potential postseason clincher and a possible playoff preview.
Yes, the NBA's longest postseason drought could end tonight.
Joe Johnson kept the Hawks in control of the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, scoring 34 points last night in New York in a 116-104 victory over the Knicks.
Trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1999, the Hawks remained two games ahead of the Indiana Pacers with three to play for each team. Atlanta trimmed its magic number to two.
Johnson, along with Mike Bibby the only Hawks players with playoff experience from when he played for Phoenix, said the postseason is on his mind.
"It definitely wanders with me. I can only imagine how Philips Arena would be rocking if we were to make the playoffs," he said. "Those are the type of imaginations that I have and hopefully if everybody stays on the same page we can make that happen."
Atlanta hosts the Celtics and could clinch a playoff spot with a victory, and a loss by the Pacers to Charlotte.
Smith and Bibby added 24 points apiece for the Hawks, who won all four meetings with the Knicks this season, sweeping the series for the first time since moving to Atlanta for the 1968-69 season. Al Horford finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Jamal Crawford scored 20 points for the Knicks.
Lakers 107, Hornets 104 - The Los Angeles Lakers are Pacific Division champions for the first time in four years and have a shot at the Western Conference title after winning their most important game of the season.
But they had to survive a tremendous scare, blowing all but 1 point of a 30-point lead.
Kobe Bryant, making a push for his first MVP award, had 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists, and the Lakers held off visiting New Orleans to move within a half-game of the conference-leading Hornets.
Pacers 85, 76ers 76 - Danny Granger had 30 points and 12 rebounds, and visiting Indiana kept its slim Eastern Conference playoff hopes alive with a victory in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia dropped into a tie for the No. 6 seed in the conference with Toronto, which beat New Jersey, following one of its worst shooting performances of the season.
The 76ers made just 35 percent of their field goal attempts (33 for 95) and shot a season-worst 43 percent from the foul line (9 for 21). They missed 13 of 14 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
Raptors 113, Nets 85 - Carlos Delfino scored 24 points, Chris Bosh had 21, and host Toronto eliminated New Jersey from playoff contention.
Vince Carter had 21 points and Devin Harris added 19 for the Nets, who last missed the playoffs in the 2001 season.
T.J. Ford and Andrea Bargnani each had 14 as the Raptors rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second quarter to beat the Nets for the third time in four games this season. Toronto has won consecutive games after losing four of five.
Bulls 100, Cavaliers 95 - LeBron James delivered jaw-dropping dunks and precise jumpers. He couldn't deliver a victory, though.
While James tied his team record by scoring 24 of his 34 points in the first quarter, Luol Deng finished with 21 to lead host Chicago over Cleveland.
The Cavaliers are trying to lock down the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but they stumbled against a team that can only hope for a little lottery luck.
Timberwolves 102, Magic 101 - Ryan Gomes made a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining to give visiting Minnesota a victory over playoff-bound Orlando.
Randy Foye had a game-high 25 points and Rashad McCants added 19 to lead the Timberwolves, who snapped a six-game losing streak. The Magic have lost six of their last 10 games.
Pistons 102, Wizards 74 - Jason Maxiell scored a career-high 28 points and Chauncey Billups added 13 as Detroit ended a short slump with a rout of Washington in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Detroit, which has clinched the Eastern Conference's second seed, had played poorly in back-to-back losses to New York and Philadelphia, but appeared to regain its focus against Washington.
Rockets 101, Suns 90 - Tracy McGrady had 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists, and Luis Scola added 19 points as host Houston cruised over Phoenix.
Amare Stoudemire scored 37 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 16 points for the Suns, who mustered their lowest point total since a 116-86 loss to Detroit Feb. 24.
The Rockets moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Suns in the Western Conference standings.
Spurs 95, SuperSonics 74 - Tony Parker scored 20 points and host San Antonio easily handled Seattle to strengthen its hold on a top-four seed in the Western Conference, something that would give it home-court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs.
After struggling offensively for their last three games, the Spurs were able to put up big numbers against the SuperSonics, who have the West's worst record. San Antonio shot 41 of 89 (46 percent) from the field and led by as many as 24 points.
Grizzlies 96, Heat 91 - Hakim Warrick and Kyle Lowry each scored 17 points, and visiting Memphis beat Miami to ensure that the Heat will finish with the league's worst record.
The Heat (14-65) will have the best chance to win the draft lottery May 20.
Mike Conley and Juan Carlos Navarro scored 15 points apiece as the Grizzlies shot 42 percent from the floor (33 of 78) while holding the Heat to 38 percent shooting (33 of 88).
Kings 103, Trail Blazers 86 - John Salmons scored 18 points in the second half to lead host Sacramento over Portland.
Playing without starters Ron Artest and Brad Miller - out with injuries - the Kings still coasted to a victory. Salmons, who started in place of Artest, also added 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.