- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

ATLANTA (AP) - Josh Smith scored 30 points and Joe Johnson had 24 to help the Atlanta Hawks clinch the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 122-118 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

Al Horford finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks earned home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Atlanta needed either a win or a loss by Miami, which fell by seven in Boston, to wrap up the No. 4 spot.

Indiana, which had won two straight and four of five, was eliminated from playoff contention.

The Hawks won their third straight, all against sub-.500 teams, and are assured of home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since winning a best-of-five series against Detroit in 1999.

Danny Granger had 35 points to lead the Pacers in scoring for the eighth straight game. Jarrett Jack, who finished with 17, matched Indiana’s biggest lead at seven midway through the third, but the Hawks never trailed after Johnson hit two free throws to make it 76-74 with 4:04 left in the quarter.

Mike Bibby hit a 3 with 4:24 left to give the Hawks a 12-point lead, the game’s biggest, at 113-101. Jack’s 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining cut it to 121-118, but Horford hit one of two free throws to end the scoring.

The Hawks host Miami, which is fifth in the East and one game ahead of Philadelphia and two up on Chicago with three games remaining, in their regular-season home finale on Tuesday.

Atlanta improved to 30-10 at Philips Arena. The Pacers dropped to 11-30 on the road.

Notes:@ Hawks F Marvin Williams returned after missing the last 16 games with a lower back injury. He finished with five points in 12 minutes. … Atlanta G Mario West started his first game of the season with F Maurice Evans out of town following the death of his grandmother. … Hawks reserve C Zaza Pachulia didn’t return for the second half because of a back injury. … Indiana dropped to 2-19 when opponents shoot 50 percent or better. Atlanta hit 51.9 from the field.

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