The Atlanta Hawks are fortunate to play out the regular season at home and will try to improve their playoff position beginning with tonight's opener of a five-game residency versus the Detroit Pistons.
The Hawks are headed to the postseason for a fifth consecutive year and are even with Orlando for the fifth and sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with five games to play. Atlanta, which owns the tiebreaker with the Magic, is 19-9 as the host and will also entertain the Celtics, Knicks, Clippers and Mavericks -- all teams currently lined up for a playoff run.
Atlanta has won five of its last seven games and is coming off a 109-87 pounding of the Toronto Raptors up north in the back end of a home-and-home series. Ivan Johnson scored a career-high 21 points to help his team clinch a postseason berth and Jeff Teague added 19 points and 10 assists for the Hawks, who ended their road schedule with a 17-16 mark and got 18 points from Joe Johnson.
"I'm glad we were able to turn right back around and play this team again," said Johnson. "That way we can really go ahead and get that sour taste out of our mouths. We understand that we were the better team last night and we wanted to come out and show it and we did."
Josh Smith added 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in the win, and is averaging 22.4 points in his last 28 games. Atlanta is 34-5 this season when scoring 90-plus points and rebounded from a loss at home to the Raptors the night before. Hawks guard Willie Green (personal) is listed as questionable Wednesday and center Zaza Pachulia (foot) is out.
Meanwhile, the Pistons just clobbered the Cleveland Cavaliers, 116-77, last night on the road and were led by Brandon Knight's career-high 28 points and seven assists.
Tayshaun Prince added 15 points, while Greg Monroe contributed 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Pistons, who had dropped five of their last six entering Tuesday's game. Detroit also halted a four-game road losing streak.
"Sometimes there are just crazy nights like that where everything you shoot goes in and for them, everything they shoot doesn't," said Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank.
Detroit connected on 60 percent of its shots from the field, while Cleveland shot 34.6 percent. The Pistons are 7-24 as the guest this season.
The Pistons have lost two of three matchups with Atlanta this season and 10 of the last 14 meetings overall. Detroit is winless in its last seven at Atlanta.