ATLANTA • The Atlanta Hawks may have discovered the optimum time to get hot.
The Hawks, behind centre Dwight Howard's 53rd double-double, secured fifth place in the National Basketball Association's Eastern Conference with a 103-76 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.
Howard scored 19 points on seven-for-nine shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Hawks (43-38) extended their winning streak to four games.
They have sealed a play-off date with the fourth-seeded Washington Wizards (49-32) in the first round when the post-season kicks off over the weekend.
"We've been here before," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "We need to stay humble, stay edgy and remember why we're playing better lately. Last four games it's been a simple message - compete, stay together - and guys are doing that well."
Atlanta also received 10 points and seven rebounds from Paul Millsap and 10 points from Ersan Ilyasova. The Hawks rested their regulars in the fourth quarter.
Charlotte (36-46) were led by Jeremy Lamb, who came off the bench to score 21 points. The Hornets finished their season by losing their final five games.
Plenty more will be decided this morning (Singapore time) as the regular season draws to a close.
The Boston Celtics lead the NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers by one game atop the East. Boston host the Milwaukee Bucks while Cleveland host the Toronto Raptors in a game they have already said superstar LeBron James will miss with a calf strain.
The Cavaliers will try to win a game without James this season at the eighth time of asking.
The Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat will fight for the last two play-off spots in the East.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
PORTLAND V NEW ORLEANS
Singtel TV Ch110, 10.30am