NBA Playoffs: Hawks vs. Wizards Preview
In the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the Washington Wizards will be taking on the Atlanta Hawks in the four-five match-up. The Hawks are making their tenth straight playoff appearance, while the Wizards are making a return to the playoffs for the third time in four years, after missing the postseason in 2016. This will be the Wizards first playoff series since being eliminated by the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2015.
While the two teams did face in the postseason just two years ago, their rosters have both evolved, which will lead to a variety of interesting matchups. One of the Hawk’s most impactful additions has been the play of Dwight Howard at the center position. While Howard is not the defensive presence that he was in his youth, he is still a notable rebounding presence, and it will be interesting to see how the Wizards’ Marcin Gortat matches up against him. Neither of the big men are as spry as they used to be, but both are averaging a double-double for the season. Howard was particularly effective against the Wizards, as he averaged fourteen points and fourteen rebound in four games against the Wizards.
Another interesting matchup to watch will be in the backcourt, as Dennis Schroder will square off against John Wall. In his first full season as a starter, Schroder has put up career high numbers in points, rebounds, and assists. Despite his recent improvement, Schroder still lacks experience, and his ability (or lack of) to defend John Wall could make or break the series for the Hawks.
The final matchup to watch is going to take place on the sidelines, between head coaches Scott Brooks and Mike Budenholzer. The two coaches have an abundance of playoff experience, as Scott Brooks led the Thunder to perennial playoff appearances, and Budenholzer worked as an assistant for the Spurs before becoming the head coach of the Hawks. Despite their successes, neither coach has taken their current team to the NBA Finals, but they have the knowledge and ability to make it happen.
Who Will Win and Why
The Wizards’ offense is one of the most explosive units in the league, but their defense is garbage. Meanwhile, the Hawks play a tough brand of defense, but have a hard time putting up points. A pivotal number to watch will be the number of turnovers committed by Atlanta’s offense. They turn the ball over at an alarming rate, with more than fifteen turnovers per game. For the Hawks to compete in this series, they’ll need to control the ball and not allow easy points off turnovers.
Ultimately, the Wizards offensive firepower will prove to be too much for the Hawks, and Atlanta’s offense will be unable to keep up. The Hawks turn the ball often too often, and John Wall is an incredibly dangerous pickpocket who is more than capable of capitalizing on sloppy ball handling. This series is going to be an interesting one to watch, as the Hawks are a solid team whose defense may be able to win them a couple of games. In the end, the Wizards’ offense led by John Wall will prove to be too powerful, as the Wizards will enter the second round of the playoffs.