Top Five Players in the Hawks and Wizards Series
*Photo via USA Today
For the second consecutive round in these playoffs, the top seeded Atlanta Hawks find themselves in a tight series. The Washington Wizards, who quickly disposed of the Toronto Raptors, continued rolling defeating the Hawks 104-98 in game one. John Wall had 18 points and 13 assists, but that is the last time we’ve seen the Wizard’s All Star point guard, who, in that game, fractured his left wrist in multiple places. Wall had been playing superb, and would be at the top if the list of the best players in this series if healthy. He will look to contribute tonight for game five, as Washington has him listed as a game time decision. In Wall’s absence other Wizards have had to step up, Ramon Sessions and Will Bynum have filled in Wall’s minutes nicely, and have kept the series even, something the Hawks can’t be too happy about. With Wall being out Atlanta has to have a bigger sense of urgency and not allow the Wizards life in this series, but with the series tied that’s exactly what they’ve done, and it’s because the Wizards are simply out playing them.
The best and most consistent player in this series has been Bradley Beal. The Wizards look to him to get buckets for them when they need it, and Beal has delivered. He is averaging 24.7 points per game in this series, and has been the most consistent scorer in the series. It was crucial for Washington’s success that Beal continue scoring without Wall setting him up for shots. Beal has found a way to get his own shot and keep the Washington offense from going into long scoring draughts. He’s going to need to continue to be a 20 plus scorer for the Wizards to win the series.
The second best player in this series is no stranger to the playoffs. Paul Pierce has turned back the clock to help his young team get to where they are now. Pierce doesn’t have flashy numbers, but he has been very efficient when on the floor knocking down clutch shots and doing little things on the defensive end. He may not be the leading scorer, but he may be the single reason this series is tied at two apiece when he hit the game winning shot in game three, after the Wizards blew a 20 point fourth quarter lead. His veteran leadership and playoff experience have been invaluable to this Wizards team who have seen their best player go down and a 20 point lead blown, but “The Truth” has kept everyone calm, and in a position to take back the series lead tonight.
Al Horford has been the most consistent player for the Hawks this series, on a team that depends on consistency from all their starters to run their system Horford has been the only one on his game for all four games. He is averaging 16.3 points per game 10.3 rebounds per game and nearly two blocks per game. He hasn’t exploded for a big game like Jeff Teague and DeMarre Carroll have in the Hawks wins but he has played the best basketball for Atlanta throughout this series.
DeMarre Carroll started off this series very well with back to back 20 point games and looked to be Atlanta’s best scorer, but has cooled off since, scoring 19 points in games three and four combined. Carroll has stepped it up in the playoffs averaging 18 points per game, six points higher than his regular season average, and he continues to play solid defense as the Hawks best wing defender. He is going to have to get back to scoring the ball more efficiently like he did in games one and two for Atlanta to win this series.
A surprising player who has stepped up for the Wizards has been Otto Porter Jr., he has been a solid spark off the bench. The former first round pick has not had much success so far, he averaged just six points per game three rebounds and less than one assist this season. However in this series he has stepped up, averaging nine points per game eight rebounds and three assists. Having unlikely players step in and contribute with Wall unavailable is exactly what the Wizards need to advance in this series.
With the series tied and the all-important game five tonight each team needs to get their best from all of their players. The Hawks need Kyle Korver to find his shot; he has been a non-factor in this series. The Wizards have done a good job to keep him from getting open and draining threes. He is averaging under 10 points per game and has scored less than 10 twice and has not scored over 13 points so far. The Wizards have been hanging in their without Wall, if they can get him back tonight that would be huge. If not the play of Sessions and Bynum at the guards will be crucial and they will need to get more scoring out of their front court.