After starting the season 2-8, the Washington Wizards had one of the best turnarounds, finishing at 49-33 with the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. The All-Star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal had career seasons, leading the Wizards to one of the better records in the second half of the season. But if they want to have a deep playoff run, they first must get through the Atlanta Hawks, who are heading into the postseason on a high note. Let’s take a look at the #4 vs. #5 matchup in the East.
Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks Series Preview
Washington won the season against Atlanta, 3-1 with the lone win for the Hawks on the first game of the season. They did an excellent job defensively, holding the Hawks to 86 points and 92 points in two of the games. There was only game where the Hawks were able to score 100+.
The Wizards are 5th in the NBA at 109.2 PPG, while the Hawks are 22nd at 103.2. But the Hawks have the edge on the defensive end with a 103.1 defensive rating, which is good enough for 4th. The Wizards are 20th with 106.9.
Which Dwight Howard Will We Get?
Howard had a solid first year in Atlanta, averaging 13.5 PPG and 12.7 RPG. While many haven’t been satisfied with his numbers in the regular season the past few seasons, he steps up his game in the postseason. That will need to be the case if the Hawks want to pull off the upset. Him and point guard Dennis Schroder will need to work well in the pick and roll and try to not focus as much on Howard getting post touches. The offense for the Hawks doesn’t flow as well when that happens.
Otto Porter Jr.
Porter had a breakout year for the Wizards in his fourth year, averaging a career high in points and rebounds with 13.4 and 6.4, respectively. He was also one of the best three-point shooters this season, shooting 43.4% from deep. The Hawks are going to put most of their defensive focus on Wall and Beal. With that, Porter will need to step up on the offensive end. He can take advantage of the defensive focus being on Wall and Beal. There could be a game where he’s the reason the Wizards are victorious.
The New Guys for the Hawks
During the season, the Hawks acquired Mike Dunleavy Jr., Ersan Ilyasova and Jose Calderon. All of these players are proven veterans who have been able to produce throughout their respective careers. The similarity between these three players is that they can all shoot from the perimeter. If they can all step up and produce, it will make the second unit more formidable and have a more balanced attack.
While the Wizards are the better team, it will not be an easy series. The Hawks have veterans with a lot of experience and great coaching as well. Both of these teams are led by excellent coaches. But come playoff time, the more talented team usually comes out on top, and that team is the Wizards. Expect the Wizards to win this series in six games.
WASHINGTON, USA – January 16: Washington Wizards’ John Wall (2) reacts during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Verizon Center in Washington, USA on January 16, 2017. The Wizards defeated the Blazers 120-101. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)