Dwight Howard had 19 points and 12 rebounds as the resurgent Atlanta Hawks won their fourth straight game, routing the listless Charlotte Hornets 103-76 on Tuesday night to wrap up the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks will face the Washington Wizards in the opening round of the playoffs.
A week ago, Atlanta’s playoff hopes were in jeopardy after a dismal stretch that included two losses to Brooklyn, the worst team in the NBA.
Then, in a sudden turnaround that epitomized the team’s maddening inconsistency this season, the Hawks knocked off East-leading Boston and recorded two straight stunning victories against the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, including Sunday’s comeback from a 26-point deficit.
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This one was never in doubt. Charlotte played its regular-season finale already eliminated from the playoffs and without its best player, Kemba Walker.
Atlanta raced to a 63-44 lead by halftime, shooting 71 percent (24 of 34) over the first two quarters.
All 13 players scored for the Hawks, who were able to rest their starters in the second half. Paul Millsap and Ersan Ilyasova added 10 points apiece.
Jeremy Lamb led the Hornets with 21 points.
Hornets: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist became the third Charlotte player in the past four seasons to start at least 81 games in a season. Walker and Marvin Williams did it last season. … Lamb is a native of suburban Norcross. … The Hornets shot 33 percent from the field.
Hawks: Howard posted his 53rd double-double of the season. … Thabo Sefolosha scored four points in 15 minutes after missing eight games with a right groin strain. … Atlanta announced before the game that manager of basketball operations Malik Rose will serve as general manager of its new D-League team beginning next season. … How long had it been since the Hawks defeated the reigning NBA champion in back-to-back games? It last happened in February 1984, when Atlanta beat Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers on consecutive nights.
Hornets: Summer vacation. Closed a disappointing regular season at 36-46, a significant drop-off from the 48-34 mark posted by last season’s playoff team.
Hawks: Will close the regular season at Indiana on Wednesday night. The game means nothing to Atlanta, but the Pacers are still trying to lock up a playoff berth.