Two teams going in opposite directions will complete the regular season when the Atlanta Hawks host the Houston Rockets on Sunday.
Atlanta (40-31) is going to the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17 and currently project as the No. 4 seed from the East. The Hawks have won three in a row and are 26-11 since March 1.
The Rockets (17-54) are guaranteed to have the worst record in the NBA and will miss the postseason for the first time since 2011-12. Houston advanced to the Western Conference semifinal last season and played for the conference title in 2017-18.
The Hawks are coming off a 116-93 win over Orlando on Thursday and have a 10-game winning streak at home, the NBA’s longest active home streak.
“You’ve got to be able to protect home, and it’s tough to win on the road in the NBA,” guard Kevin Huerter said. “We want this building to be a place that people don’t want to come in and play.”
With their playoff berth secured, the Hawks could rest or at least provide few minutes for several players dealing with injuries. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been playing through right hamstring soreness; he scored 27 against Orlando. Clint Capela (right heel pain) and Danilo Gallinari (lower back soreness) were listed as questionable Thursday, but played.
Bogdanovic has flourished since becoming more familiar with point guard Trae Young. Bogdanovic has scored 20-plus points in a career-best 20 games and in five of his last six games.
“Trae knows this guy can put the ball in the basket,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We’ve added some sets since he’s gone into the starting lineup to try to take advantage of his skill and his ability to catch and shoot. I think he and Trae are building some chemistry out on the floor. When you have a guy that can shoot like that, you’ve got to find ways to put the ball in his hands.”
The Rockets ended a seven-game losing streak on Friday with a 122-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, who did not play three starters as the team prepares for the playoffs. Kelly Olynyk came up one rebound shy of picking up a triple-double as the Rockets won for the first time since April 29.
“To have a victory is really good stuff,” said first-year Houston coach Stephen Silas.
The Rockets were addressed by owner Tilman Fertitta after the victory.
“Tilman came in and spoke to the team and told them how proud he was of them, and he hadn’t done that this season,” Silas said. “The players really liked that.”
Atlanta is looking to sweep the two-game season series against Houston after being swept by the Rockets in each of the last three seasons. The Hawks won 119-107 in Houston on March 16 thanks to 29 points from Gallinari, who sparked a 15-4 run in the fourth quarter to break open a game that was tied 97-97.
The Rockets continue to deal with injury problems. Avery Bradley has missed five straight games for personal reasons. Christian Wood (right ankle soreness) has missed six straight and Kevin Porter Jr. (left ankle sprain) has been out for five straight games.
–Field Level Media