Hawks head to playoffs after 124-95 rout of woeful Rockets


ATLANTA (AP) Rookie Onyeka Okongwu set career highs with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks headed to the playoffs on a roll with a 124-95 rout of the woeful Houston Rockets in the regular-season finale Sunday night.

The Hawks went with a makeshift lineup after their Eastern Conference playoff spot was locked in before taking the court.

Okongwu, the No. 6 pick in the draft, posted his second career double-double. Seven other players scored in double figures to lead Atlanta’s second-biggest win of the season, surpassed only by a 135-103 triumph over Phoenix on May 5.

New York clinched the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round against the fifth-seeded Hawks with a 96-92 victory over Boston.

The Knicks beat the Hawks on the tiebreaker with three straight wins over Atlanta during the regular season. Both teams finished 41-31, breaking long playoff droughts.

Atlanta sat starters Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic, in addition to top sub Danilo Gallinari. Trae Young and John Collins only played in the first half.

It didn’t matter against the woeful Rockets, who went into full rebuilding mode when they dealt James Harden to Brooklyn in January.

Atlanta raced away from Houston in the second quarter and led 72-54 at halftime as Collins scored 15 points, De’Andre Hunter added 13 and Young 10.

Young played long enough to dish out nine assists, as well.

Houston finished 17-55, the worst record in the league and its most dismal season since a 14-68 campaign in 1982-83. D.J. Augustin and Armoni Brooks each scored 18 points to lead the injury-ravaged Rockets, who dressed only nine players.

The Hawks, on the other hand, pulled off a remarkable turnaround under interim coach Nate McMillan. He led the team to a 27-11 record after Lloyd Pierce was fired with Atlanta mired at 14-20.

TIP-NS

Rockets: After a six-game winning streak that boosted their record to 10-9 on Feb. 1, the Rockets managed only seven victories in their last 53 games – a .132 winning percentage.

Hawks: Hunter got his first start since Jan. 29. He has battled a lingering right knee injury and played for just the fifth time in the last 53 games, but it looks like he’s ready to contribute in the playoffs after going more than 24 minutes. … Won their 11th straight game at State Farm Arena. … Capela became the first Atlanta player to lead the league in rebuilding (14.3 per game) since Dikeme Mutombo in 1999-2000. … Mutombo watched the game from a courtside seat.

UP NEXT

Rockets: Looking forward to the NBA draft.

Hawks: Heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The best-of-seven series against the Knicks will open next weekend at Madison Square Garden.

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports





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