Hawks clinch playoff spot; Johnson hurts thumbMar 27, 2011 - 4:21 AM Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Al Horford totaled 23 points and 12 rebounds, and the Hawks used a huge run in the first quarter to clinch a playoff spot with a 98-87 win over the New Jersey Nets.
Josh Smith had 10 of his 22 points in the opening stanza that saw Atlanta score 19 in a row. The Hawks are entrenched as the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, 3 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia. They snapped a two-game skid and won for just the second time in six games, beating New Jersey for the fifth straight time at Philips Arena.
Joe Johnson scored 12 points, but Atlanta's starting guard left the game early in the third quarter with a sprained right thumb. Johnson was hurt reaching for a loose ball. He will not travel with the Hawks for Sunday's game at Cleveland.
"It's just sore," Johnson said. "I can't really do much with it as far as catching the basketball. Maybe if it was my left hand it would be a lot different with me going out there to try and play, but we've got to look at the bigger picture. We've got to be as healthy as possible going into the playoffs."
Anthony Morrow scored 25 points for the Nets, who have dropped six of their last seven contests. They fell to 5-31 on the road this season.
Morrow drove in for a layup for the game's first points, but it was all downhill from there in the first half for the Nets. Atlanta scored the next 19 points, eight of those from Smith. His dunk capped the burst midway through the quarter, a period which the Hawks went 14-of-22 from the field.
Johnson beat the buzzer with a three-pointer for a 32-15 difference after 12 minutes, and Atlanta's cushion reached 55-27 on a Kirk Hinrich three-ball with 2:43 left in the half. It was 57-31 at the break for Atlanta on the strength of 61 percent shooting.
"It was very tough," Morrow said of trying to fight back from a huge deficit. "I don't think it was an effort thing on our part. I think defensively we had some mistakes. They just capitalized on all of them. That's what good teams are going to do when you make mistakes. I think we can't get down in those deficits like that."
The Hawks were ahead by as many as 30 in the third and carried an 82-61 advantage into the fourth. The Nets made things a bit interesting late, as a tip-in from Kris Humphries got the visitors within 88-78 with 5:02 left. Horford then went on a personal 6-0 run to end any hopes for New Jersey.
The Hawks secured a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season...New Jersey star point Deron Williams was out with a strained tendon in his right wrist...Jamal Crawford scored 18 off the bench for the Hawks, while Hinrich had 11...Humphries and Johan Petro each scored 12 in defeat.
- NEW JERSEY: 87
Mar 26 9:14 PM
- NEW JERSEY: 61
End of 3rd
Mar 26 8:44 PM
- NEW JERSEY: 31
Mar 26 8:01 PM
- NEW JERSEY: 15
End of 1st
Mar 26 7:33 PM
- NEW JERSEY: 0
1st Quarter - 12:00
Mar 26 7:12 PM
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