Hawks hammer Bobcats

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew likes his team’s focus as it makes a final push toward the playoffs.


The Hawks, who are a half-game behind Indiana in the race for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, got 18 points from Joe Johnson on 8-of-10 shooting and 57 points from their bench to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 116-96 on Saturday night.

Although the Hawks stumbled out of the gates in the first quarter Saturday night, they regrouped and took care of business against the NBA-worst Bobcats by scoring a season-high 68 points in the second half.

“We can’t have any mental letdowns,” Drew said, looking ahead to the final nine regular-season games. “Here we are with nine games to go and we’ve shown that we can be a pretty good ballclub. But any coach is looking for that consistency heading down the stretch. This is no time to let up and to not finish the regular season on a strong note so we can carry some momentum into the playoffs.”

Zaza Pachulia had 12 points and 16 rebounds for the Hawks, while Jannero Pargo had 15 points and nine assists and Ivan Johnson added 17 points off the bench.

“We’re already in playoff mode,” Ivan Johnson said.

Rookie Cory Higgins, the son of Charlotte president of basketball operations Rod Higgins, scored a career-high 22 points for the Bobcats.



In Indianapolis, Paul Pierce scored 24 points to help Boston beat Indiana.

Ray Allen added 19 points, Kevin Garnett scored 15 and Rajon Rondo had 12 assists for the Celtics. Boston snapped a two-game skid and remained ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers at the top of the Atlantic Division.

Danny Granger scored 20 points, David West had 16 and Roy Hibbert added nine points and 17 rebounds for Indiana.

MAGIC 88, 76ERS 82

In Philadelphia, Dwight Howard had 20 points and 22 rebounds, and Glen Davis had 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead Orlando past Philadelphia.

J.J. Redick scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to help the Magic snap a five-game losing streak. The Magic pushed aside the lingering rift between Howard and coach Stan Van Gundy to win for the first time since March 26.

The Magic outrebounded the Sixers 53-41.

Thaddeus Young scored 20 points, Jodie Meeks had 16 and Lou Williams 15 for Philadelphia.



In Milwaukee, Beno Udrih scored a season-high 21 points, Brandon Jennings also added 21, and Milwaukke beat Portland to tighten the race for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Ersan Ilyasova chipped in 20 points for Milwaukee, which moved within a half-game of idle New York with its fourth consecutive victory. The Bucks are .500 (28-28) for the first time since they were 2-2 on Jan. 2.

LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 21 points for Portland.



In Memphis, Tenn., Rudy Gay scored 25 points, Zach Randolph added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Memphis built a big early lead and held on to beat Dallas.

Memphis won its second in a row and seventh in the last nine games.

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 17 points and eight rebounds, and Brandan Wright added 16 points. Vince Carter had 14 points, while Shawn Marion finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds in the Mavericks’ second consecutive loss.



In New Orleans, Jason Smith had a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, leading New Orleans past struggling Minnesota.

Kevin Love had 29 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost its fifth in a row and 13th in its past 17.



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