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Wizards - Hawks Series Preview

April 14, 2017

Game 1

Sun, April 16

Atlanta at Washington

1:00 PM

CSN/TNT

Game 2

Wed, April 19

Atlanta at Washington

7:00 PM

CSN/NBA TV

Game 3

Sat, April 22

Washington at Atlanta

5:30 PM

CSN/TNT

Game 4

Mon, April 24

Washington at Atlanta

8:00 PM

CSN/TNT

Game 5*

Wed, April 26

Atlanta at Washington

TBD

CSN/TBD

Game 6*

Fri, April 28

Washington at Atlanta

TBD

CSN/TBD

Game 7*

Sun, April 30

Atlanta at Washington

TBD

TBD

*If Necessary

Five Questions Heading Into #WizHawks | Buy Tickets | A Look Back at #WizHawks 



We're back!  

After a one year hiatus, the Washington Wizards will once again be participants in the 16-team tournament known as the NBA Playoffs.  

Similar to the playoff teams from 2014 and 2015, the Wizards will once again be playing in the 4-5 matchup in the East.  However, unlike those years, the Wizards will be the four seed this time around, which means they'll host Game 1 at Verizon Center (Sunday 1pm) and have home court advantage in the series.  It will be the first time the Wizards will hold home court in a playoff series since the 1978-79 season.  

Hawks Again 

Pierce_GW_670_0509The last time the Wizards played in a playoff game, it was against these same Atlanta Hawks.  It was Game Six of the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals and the game ended in heartbreaking fashion.  With the team trailing by three and the clock winding down, Paul Pierce drained a near miraculous 3-pointer which would have tied the game and forced overtime, but it was reviewed and ruled to be just a tenth of a second too late, ending the Wizards season.

It was a hard fought series and a tough way for the Wizards to go out, as almost every game came down to the final few possessions.  It was a series in which the Wizards went into Atlanta and won Game One, but lost star point guard John Wall to a fractured hand, an injury that at the time was expected to keep him out of the entire series.  Somehow, once the swelling went down, Wall found a way to come back and suit up for Game Five, and with the series tied at 2-2, the Wizards nearly pulled off another road win. However, Al Horford's offensive rebound and putback with two seconds left gave the Hawks the series lead in what may have been the most pivotal play of the Hawks' postseason.      

The Hawks, who were the top seed in the East that year, won the series 4-2, something Wall hasn't forgotten as the two teams will get ready to play again in the first round of the 2017 playoffs.  

What's Different, What's the Same? 

While some of the key figures from that 2015 series will be the same, these are not the same teams that squared off two years ago.  

For the Wizards, their core of Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and Marcin Gortat all played big roles in that 2015 series and they'll all be counted on again to play heavy minutes in this upcoming series.  

But, outside of that four, the rest of the Wizards have changed, including the other member of the starting five, Markieff Morris, along with the entire bench.  Brandon Jennings, Bojan Bogdanovic, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Jason Smith will likely be the rotation players the Wizards rely on as reserves in the series and none of them were on the team two years ago.  

For the Hawks, they've also changed significantly since that 2015 series, as the only constant from their starting lineup will be four-time All-Star Paul Millsap.  Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder were key reserves the last time, but they've both become starters for much of this season and will play more minutes this time around.  Thabo Sefolosha was on the team the last time, but was injured, and is now healthy and will be a key to the Hawks' defense in this series. Mike Muscala was a backup big the last time and will play that role again as they'll use him to stretch the floor at the five.  Atlanta added Dwight Howard in the offseason, who will see plenty of time in the middle, and they'll look to their third leading scorer, Tim Hardaway Jr. for plenty of perimeter scoring.  Much of Atlanta's bench will be different, as they'll use some combination of Ersan Ilyasova, Taurean Prince, Malcom Delaney, Jose Calderon, Kris Humhpries, and Mike Dunleavy as their reserves.  

Backcourt Edge to Washington 

Wall_hawks_0915
The Wizards' biggest edge in this series will be their backcourt, as John Wall and Bradley Beal are the team's two best players and form one of the best backcourts in the league. Wall has been to four straight All-Star games and just put together the best season in his seven year career.  Beal elevated his game to the next level this year and has become one of the best shooting guards in the league.  Together, they can be about as good as any guard pairing in the league and they will be the Wizards top two options throughout the series.   The Wiz will use Brandon Jennings as a backup point guard, but he'll sometimes play alongside Wall.   They'll also use sharpshooting Bojan Bogdanovic as a guard, although he can play as a forward with certain lineups as well.       

The Hawks don't have any of the big name stars in their backcourt, but they do have some dangerous guards who have given the Wizards trouble in the past.  Dennis Schroder became the team's primary point guard this season after they dealt Jeff Teague away last summer and he responded by averaging a career best 17.9 ppg on 45% shooting.  He can be crafty and will find creative ways to score, but the Wizards did force him into 10 turnovers in their last meeting.  The Hawks will use a few options at the two guard, but their best scoring threat there is Tim Hardaway Jr.  Since February, he's averaged about 18.0 ppg and he scored 29 last month against the Wizards.  Their best two defensive players can play as guards and the'll rely heavily on both Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha.  Either one of them will likely spend a lot of time defending Beal and the Hawks could choose to put one of them on Wall as well.  Atlanta added veteran Jose Calderon as a backup point guard and he or rookie Malcom Delaney should see some time backing up Schroder in the series.  

Mahinmi Missing in Middle 

Gortat vs. HawksThe Wizards expect to be without center Ian Mahinmi for at least the first few games of the series, as he suffered a calf injury in Detroit earlier in the week.  That will be a big blow to the Wizards' frontcourt, as Mahinmi had really developed into one of the Wizards key bench players who often times played late in games.  It will especially hurt in this series because of Dwight Howard's presence in the paint, which will put a lot more of the load on Marcin Gortat.   With Mahinmi out, the Wiz will need Gortat to stay out of foul trouble and keep Howard in check.  While he goes by the nickname 'Polish Machine', Gortat won't be able to play 48 minutes a game, so the Wiz will likely use Jason Smith at the five spot, which will allow them to stretch the floor on offense.  When Smith plays the five, the Wiz will have shooters at every spot on the floor, but they may need to have their guards help on the boards to neutralize Atlanta's size advantage.  Keef Morris could also see time at the five spot when the Wizards go small, but he'll be undersized if he has to try and defend Howard.  

Similar to the Wizards, the Hawks have bigs that can shoot the ball, led by their All-Star Paul Millsap. He's their best all around player and along with Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala, two bigs that will play off the bench, Atlanta has the capability to spread the floor with shooters.   With the Wizards shorthanded in the frontcourt, one thing to watch will be how often Atlanta chooses to use their shooting lineups, as they may alter their rotations a bit to try and get an edge inside.  

Wizards on the Wings 

Porter vs. TORThe two wings to watch in this series for the Wizards will be Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.  The 2015 playoffs was Porter's coming out party, as he was just then emerging into the player he has become.  Porter had an excellent year as the Wizards starting small forward, and finished the season fifth in 3-point shooting at 43.4%.  He cooled off a bit towards the end of the season, but with Atlanta gameplanning to slow down Wall and Beal, it could be Porter who plays that x-factor role.  Oubre will have an interesting role in this series as he could be used as the defensive stopper on any number of Hawks scorers.  If Schroder really gets going, the Wiz could choose to play KO on the Hawks' point guard, something the Wiz have done a lot with Oubre over the last month.  Washington won't ask much from Oubre on the offensive end, but if he's able to knock down open shots he'll play a key role for this team in this series.  

Coaching Experience 

Brooks_beal_1025Scott Brooks has been no stranger to the playoffs, although this will be his first time navigating his way through the Eastern Conference.  Brooks has coached in 73 playoff games, posting a playoff record of 39-34.  He took his Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2011-12 and went to the Conference Finals in 2013-14.  This will be his first go around with this Wizards squad, a team that he coached to a 49-33 record during the regular season.  

Mike Budenholzer has led the Hawks to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons as a head coach, and has a 15-18 record in the postseason.  He's a product of the Gregg Popovich's tree out of San Antonio and uses a similar offense centered around ball movement.               
                    
Season Series 

Wizards 3-1

October 27: Atlanta 114, Washington 99
Box ScoreRecap | Highlights

The Wizards and Hawks were deadlocked through the first three quarters, but the Hawks outscored the Wizards 33-19 in the 4 th quarter to take the first game of the season and series. The Hawks outrebounded the Wizards 52-40 and also shot 46.2% from deep to the Wizards’ 30.0%. Markieff Morris was one of the lone bright spots in the season opener, scoring 22 points in 27 minutes. 

Wizards leaders: Morris 22p | Gortat 11r | Wall 10a
Hawks leaders: Millsap 28p | Howard 19r | Millsap 6a

November 4: Washington 95, Atlanta 92
Box ScoreRecap | Highlights

In their first win of the season, the Wizards’ starting backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 49 points to lead Washington. Morris locked down All-Star Paul Millsap (5/14 FG, 16 points) and scored 18 points with nine rebounds himself. Atlanta struggled to shoot the entire game, only making five of 25 3-point attempts and shooting 63.9% from the free throw line. This was one of the Wizards’ best defensive games in the first half of the season.

Wizards leaders: Beal 28p | Gortat 15r | Wall 6a
Hawks leaders: Howard/Schroder 20p | Howard 12r | Bazemore 5a

January 27: Washington 112, Atlanta 86
Box ScoreRecap |  Highlights

In the Wizards’ largest win of the season (26 points), all five Wizards starters scored in double figures and held the Hawks' starters to 42 points. The Wizards also had arguably their best defensive game of the season, holding the Hawks to a season-low 36.1% from the field for an opponent. Millsap scored a season-low four points on 1/7 shooting, mainly due to Morris’ excellent defense. Otto Porter Jr. had 21 points and 12 rebounds, including five 3-pointers.

Wizards leaders: Porter 21p | Porter 12r | Wall 9a
Hawks leaders: Bazemore 15p | Howard 13r | Schroder 5a

March 22: Washington 104, Atlanta 100
Box ScoreRecap |  Highlights

The Wizards scored 37 points in the fourth quarter, as Wall and Beal combined for 50 points in the game. Washington shot 18/52 in the first three quarters, but made 10/16 in the fourth. The Wizards also had a season-high 55 rebounds on the night, including 18 offensive rebounds. Atlanta struggled again from the field and beyond the arc again in this game, shooting 39.5% and 32.0% respectively. 

Wizards leaders: Beal 28p | Mahinmi 10r | Wall 10a
Hawks leaders: Hardaway 29p | Howard 15r | Schroder 6a


Hashtags 

#DCFamily vs. #TrueToAtlanta


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