ATLANTA (AP) – Josh Smith scored 23 points and the Atlanta Hawks clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, racing to a 23-point lead in the opening quarter on the way to a 106-89 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the regular-season finale Thursday night.
The Hawks (40-26) wrapped up the fourth-best record in the East and host Boston on 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.
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. The team hasn’t gotten past the second round since moving to Atlanta in 1968.
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.
With the home court no longer in doubt, Atlanta was finally able to rest its starters in the final quarter. Green scored 11 points, Ivan Johnson finished with 10 and the Hawks got 33 points overall from their reserves.
NOTES: Hawks G Jannero Pargo did not dress because of a sore back. … Mavericks G Jason Kidd rested up for the playoffs, watching the game from the bench in his street clothes. … Atlanta coach Larry Drew is sounding less and less optimistic about C Zaza Pachulia (sprained left foot) coming back for the opening round of the playoffs. “Me, personally, I’m not getting my hopes up too high that we’ll have him,” Drew said. … This was the only regular-season meeting between the teams. The Mavericks had won the last three games against the Hawks, including a 2-0 sweep of last year’s series.