The Atlanta Hawks secured their ninth straight playoff berth after the Washington Wizard, like many teams before them, failed to get a victory over the Golden State Warriors.
The Georgia franchise could have punched their postseason ticket earlier on in the night, but the Detroit Pistons managed an unlikely win against triple-double machine Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder, albeit without Kevin Durant.
On Monday night, the Hawks defeated the Chicago Bulls 102-100 largely in thanks to Jeff Teague's prowess from the charity stripe under pressure.
That leaves the Bulls' hopes of a postseason run hanging by a thread with just eight games remaining. Derrick Rose and co. lay in ninth on the outside looking in, but the Hawks are cemented in third and can now concentrate on vying for home court advantage.
Atlanta's recent form has been timely, to say the least. They have won four on the bounce - which only the Warriors can better - as well as nine out of their last 10 and 12 out of 14 games.
Coach Mike Budenholzer could see that the Bulls were fighting hard to break into that top eight, but is glad his team was tested and passed with flying colours.
"You want to have some close games and execute and do some things defensively and offensively, feel the pressure a little bit and make some free throws," Budenholzer said. "So it was good to find a way to win on the road in a close game."
Resident three-point man Kyle Korver spoke with AJC.com before the game with Chicago, and he initiated the team always believed they would make the postseason, it's just a question of how high can they finish.
“I think that’s going to happen either way,” Korver said. “We feel pretty confident about that. We are going to be a playoff team. It’s just where we are going to be. When it’s all said and down, no matter what the standings say, we want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season. It feels like we are headed in that direction.”
The Hawks finished top of the pile in the Eastern Conference last season and surprised everyone with a record of 60-22. Their record of 45-30 this year signals a slight drop off from those dizzy heights, but, having retained the majority of last year's unit, with the exception of DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta are well placed to contend.
The emergence of Dennis Schroder has been another bonus in the South and after being swept by the Cavaliers in last year's conference finals - the only finals they made in this nine-year run - the Hawks are more motivated than ever to reign the Eastern Conference.
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