Last time the Wizards and Hawks met it was two years ago, similar teams but different identities. The backcourt John Wall and Bradley Beal has become of or the league’s best and they are having their best season statistical and in team success. While both teams each shared early success before the All-Star break, each team has endured droughts recently, especially the Atlanta Hawks, losing 9 out of 11 before recently and most importantly winning the last four games to clinch a playoff spot.
Wizards hold the 3-1 lead this year against the Hawks winning the final three contests, neither team fully healthy in each match. To this day, the Wizards strongly believe that series would have turned out differently had all-star point guard John Wall not suffered fractures in his left wrist and hand during Game 1, missing the next three games.
This year the Hawks bring back their main core, adding a few pieces such as Ersan Ilyasova and Jose Calderon, this team knows who to rely on and knowing each teammates’ strengths. Coach Mike Budenholzer states, “We’ve been here before,”, continuing “We need to stay humble, stay edgy and remember why we’re playing better lately, our last four games it’s been a simple message compete, stay together and guys are doing that well.”
Thabo Sefolosha, who missed the previous eight games with a right groin strain, limbered up for the playoffs, entering in the second quarter and finishing with four points. Sefolosha will be a much needed defensive presence as he has been all season, his versatility can be used to slow down Wall or Beal.
Keys to Atlanta Success:
Defense, Rebounding, Extra Possessions
Dwight playoff career numbers in the playoffs are a beefy 19.1 points, 14.1 rebounds, and almost three blocks per game. He will be matched up against a similar-styled player so he should feel comfortable and make a great impact.
Keys to Atlanta Success:
Control Pace, Limit Turnovers, Be Aggressive
Dennis Schroder has filled in almost seamlessly in his first year starting point guard averaging a career best in points, assists, free throw percentage, three point percentage, and just about every category there is, which is why he should be considered top three in the Most Improved Player award race. His matchup versus All-Star guard John Wall will be a tough challenge, Hawks want Dennis to limit turnovers and don’t give the Wizards a chance to get out in transition.
Keys to Atlanta Success:
Providing Leadership, Defensive Versatility, Stay Aggressive
Paul Millsap is the anchor for the Atlanta Hawks and has been for several years. He’s been in the last three all-star games and provides leadership through his play on both ends of the court. His value truly showed recently as he was sidelined for about eight games, and the dynamics of the team drastically changed, losing seven straight games. Millsap will have to be aggressive scoring and getting others involved. With the free agency being closer than we think, this may be the last time we see Millsap in a playoff series.
Below is the NBA Playoff schedule that just dropped:
Game 1 – Sunday April 16 – Atlanta at Washington – 1:00 pm ET – TNT
Game 2 – Wednesday April 19 – Atlanta at Washington- 7:00 pm ET – NBA TV
Game 3 – Saturday April 22 – Washington at Atlanta – 5:30 pm ET – TNT
Game 4 – Monday April 24 – Washington at Atlanta – 8:00 pm ET – TNT
Game 5 (If Necessary) – Wednesday April 26 – Atlanta at Washington – TBD
Game 6 (If Necessary) – Friday April 28 – Washington at Atlanta – TBD
Game 7 (If Necessary) – Sunday April 30 – Atlanta at Washington – TBD
Hawks come out of game 82 with a full healthy roster, with key injuries to Thabo Sefolosha, Paul Millsap and Kent Bazemore they took the final game off versus the Indiana Pacers. Coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game, “At this point, for us having locked up the fifth seed, we want to make sure we are totally healthy or as healthy as possible going into the first round of the playoffs,”, then added “It’s just our priority.”
With the final game ending, the Hawks will have time to prepare for game, Budenholzer also stating after the game “I think we are excited where we are and how we are playing headed into the playoffs,” he said. “A couple days to get prepared and get after it.” In the Wizards case, today Coach Brooks announced Mahinmi, the team’s backup center, will miss the start of the series as he recovers from a strained left calf. Mahinmi is expected to be evaluated in the next seven to 10 days.
The Hawks end the season winning four out of five, offensive rating 105.1 (27th NBA), defensive rating 105.6 (4th NBA) and 43-39 overall for the season (5th in East). All games will be shown on National TV, or the games will be be covered locally on CSN Mid-Atlantic in the Washington D.C. area and Fox Sports Southeast in the Atlanta area.