Verizon Center | Game 1 | CSN/TNT | 1pm | 1500 AM |
Wizards: G - Wall, G - Beal, F- Porter, F - Morris, C - Gortat
Hawks: G - Schroder, G - Hardaway Jr., F - Prince, F - Millsap, C - Howard
Wizards: Mahinmi (calf) - Out
October 27: Atlanta 114, Washington 99
The Wizards and Hawks were deadlocked through the first three quarters, but the Hawks outscored the Wizards 33-19 in the 4
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.
Morris 22p | Gortat 11r | Wall 10a
Millsap 28p | Howard 19r | Millsap 6a
November 4: Washington 95, Atlanta 92
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.
Beal 28p | Gortat 15r | Wall 6a
Howard/Schroder 20p | Howard 12r | Bazemore 5a
Washington 112, Atlanta 86
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.
Porter 21p | Porter 12r | Wall 9a
Bazemore 15p | Howard 13r | Schroder 5a
Washington 104, Atlanta 100
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.
Beal 28p | Mahinmi 10r | Wall 10a
Hardaway 29p | Howard 15r | Schroder 6a
What to Watch For
There's no way to simulate playoff intensity. Whether a player will be playing in his 90th (Dwight Howard) or first (Keef Morris) playoff game, there's little doubt there will be some extra juices flowing when the ball is tipped at 1pm on Sunday. Harnessing that added aggression and coming out focused and locked in will be something to watch for both sides in this one.
The Wizards will be opening Game 1 at home for the first time in nearly 40 years and they'll want to use that home crowd to their advantage early on Sunday. The Wiz went 30-11 at home this season, which tied the Celtics for the second best home record in the East, one game behind Cleveland.
For whatever reason, home teams tend to get better bench play in the playoffs, and the Wizards will likely look to Brandon Jennings, Kelly Oubre Jr., Jason Smith, and Bojan Bogdanovic as their key rotation players. With Ian Mahinmi out with a calf injury, Smith may be asked to play minutes at the center spot to spell Marcin Gortat.
Game 1 Success
The Wizards have had success in Game 1's with this core group of players, as they have taken a 1-0 series lead in all four previous playoff series, winning all four of those games on the road. In 2014, they won in Chicago in the first round and then in Indiana in the second, and then in 2015 they won in Toronto and then in Atlanta. This will be their first time opening a series at home.
The Hawks have also had success in Game 1's of the first round, as they won their first game of the postseason in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Getting in the Passing Lanes
The Hawks' offense is built on ball movement and they won't use much isolation as they really spread the ball around.
"They are one of the best passing teams in the league, we have to do a good job of containing the basketball so we're not chasing them around. If we can do that and make them play half court basketball, it will put us in a better position," said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks after practice on Saturday.
The Wizards finished second in the league in steals per game and their ability to deflect passes and throw off the Hawks' offensive rhythm will be key in this series.
The Hawks finished seventh in steals and second in forcing turnovers, so taking care of the ball will be something the Wizards need to pay extra attention to as they try and open the series with a home win.
John Wall vs. Dennis Schroder
For all the keys to the series, teams need their best players to step up during the playoffs, and the Wizards won't go far without their All-Star John Wall leading them. Wall had a career season in 2016-17, setting career highs in points, assists, steals, and double doubles. While Wall shot a career best 45% from the field this season, he shot just 32.9% in the four games against Atlanta, his lowest shooting mark against any Eastern Conference team. The Hawks will probably begin the game with Dennis Schroder on Wall, but they could use Thabo Sefolosha or Kent Bazemore on Wall to show him some different looks.
Schroder also had a career season in 2016-17, becoming Atlanta's starting point guard after the dealt Jeff Teague in the offseason. Similar to Wall against the Hawks, Schroder didn't shoot the ball particularly well against the Wizards (38%), and he averaged 5.5 turnovers in the four games against Washington. But, Schroder can really cause problems when he gets into the paint and the Wizards will try and make him an outside shooter for much of this series.