CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Atlanta inched closer to unseating Charlotte for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs by rallying from an 18-point first-quarter deficit for a 99-87 victory over the slumping Hornets on Friday night.
Steve Smith scored 19 of his 23 points in the last three quarters as Atlanta won for the fourth time in six games and cut Charlotte's lead over the Hawks to one game. Both teams have five games left, including a matchup against each other next Friday night in Atlanta.
Eldridge Recasner added 23 points and Mookie Blaylock, who hit four of seven attempts from 3-point range, scored 13 of his 19 in the final 10:08 as the Hawks improved to 3-0 against Charlotte this season.
The Hornets, returning from a road trip in which they went 0-3 after falling behind by at least 20 points in the first half of each contest, lost for the sixth time in eight games.
Glen Rice and Matt Geiger had 17 points apiece for Charlotte. But Rice, guarded much of the game by Smith, attempted just five field goals in the second half, and Geiger had only four points in the last two quarters.
The Hornets built leads of 11-0 and 24-6, only to see Atlanta erase its deficit by halftime.
Charlotte scored 10 points off turnovers in the first quarter but none in the second, when Smith powered Atlanta's comeback with 11 points.
The Hornets scored 31 points in the first quarter, but a total of only 36 in the second and third periods.
Blaylock had five points in an 11-0 run that put the Hawks ahead to stay early in the fourth quarter, and Christian Laettner's three-point play gave Atlanta an 86-75 lead with 7:04 left.
The closest Charlotte got the rest of the way was 86-81 on a pair of free throws by David Wesley with 5:46 left. Blaylock answered with a 3-pointer.
NOTES: The Hawks won their first two games over Charlotte this season by a combined 38 points. ... Charlotte fell to 8-12 at home against the Hawks. ... Atlanta remains the only team in the NBA the Hornets have not defeated this season. ... The Hawks improved to 20-19 on the road. ... Referee Jack Nies halted the game in the third quarter after detecting a laser light being flashed onto the playing floor. Fans pointed out the man using the light, and security guards ushered him from the stands.
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