Mavericks-Hawks Preview


The Atlanta Hawks are looking to nail down home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Dallas Mavericks know they will be opening their title defense on the road.

The Hawks will ensure that they open the postseason at home by defeat the visiting Mavericks in Thursday night's regular-season finale.

Atlanta (39-26) will be the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and begin the playoffs against Boston, guaranteed the No. 4 seed as the Atlantic Division champion. The Hawks, though, are one game ahead of the Celtics and can secure home court for the series with a victory Thursday or a loss by Boston to Milwaukee.

"It's important to try to get home-court advantage," guard Willie Green said. "We'll see what happens last game."

Dallas (36-29) will be the sixth or seventh seed in the West. The Mavericks know they'll face a tough opponent in the first round as they embrace the challenge of trying to repeat.

"A sixth or seventh seed is generally gonna be viewed as an underdog-type team and that's OK," coach Rick Carlisle told the Mavericks' official website. "But either way, we've got to approach it the same way. We can't look for external motivations to get fired up to defend a championship."

The Hawks won for the fourth time in five games Tuesday, 109-102 over the Los Angeles Clippers. Joe Johnson scored a game-high 28 points and made two 3-pointers in the final 1:28 to help seal the victory.

"We've been playing pretty good lately, we have not been finishing games the way we hope that we finish - it's just a few games as of late - but coming down the stretch of tonight's game, I could tell our guys were mentally focused," coach Larry Drew said.

Atlanta's bench also came through with 32 points, led by Marvin Williams with 11.

"If you're going to get over the hump in the playoffs, you've got keep advancing with the bench,'' Johnson said. "They've got to play a big role.''

The Hawks won't get any minutes Thursday from center Al Horford, who has been out since Jan. 11 with a torn pectoral muscle and says he won't play in the first round against the Celtics. Horford practiced earlier this week and was hoping to return before that series.

Dallas has not played since a 93-83 defeat at Chicago on Saturday, in which veteran guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry were rested. It's unclear who will suit up Thursday for the Mavericks, who are clearly looking ahead.

We're excited, and there's gonna be 15 other teams excited about the possibility as well," Carlisle said. "And we want to be healthy, we want to make sure we're thinking the right way, we want to make sure we have an edge and to go into this thing - and when I say 'this thing' I mean the game Thursday and games beyond - with a mental edge and a real understanding for exactly how we've got to play to be successful."

The Mavericks have won three straight and 19 of 25 against the Hawks.