As the Wizards prepare for the first round of the NBA Playoffs and their series against the Hawks, will Atlanta be able to handle Washington, or will Washington dominate?
The NBA Playoffs are here and the Washington Wizards are preparing for their first-round matchup against the Atlanta Hawks, a rematch of the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals, however the Wizards are certainly hoping for a different outcome.
The big question is: will the Hawks be able to handle the Wizards? This year’s Wizards look a lot different than the team that lost to Atlanta back in 2015, and it would seem the Wizards have the edge in a lot of ways.
The Wizards have finished the season ninth in the league in net rating and ninth in the league in offensive rating. The Hawks finished the season 19th in the league in net rating, and 27th in the league in offensive rating.
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Where the Hawks have a major edge on the Wizards is on defense. The Wizards finished the season 20th in defensive rating, whereas the Hawks finished fourth. So will the Hawks defense be able to overcome the prolific Wizards offense?
Likely not. The Hawks just don’t have the team to be able to match up against the Wizards. John Wall and Bradley Beal make up one of the best, if not the best, backcourts in the NBA, and Denis Schröder and Kent Bazemore (or Tim Hardaway Jr., depending on who the Hawks decide to start) just won’t be able to handle them.
If the Hawks decide to really focus on limiting opportunities for Wall and Beal (e.g. attempting to shut down the pick and roll), then they’ll take pressure off of Otto Porter, who has proven himself to be an excellent shooter.
If the Hawks want to win, they will have to rely on their frontcourt of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard, a formidable duo if ever there was one. But even that matchup should prove beatable for the Wizards.
Power forward Markieff Morris is quick enough to defend Millsap, and center Marcin Gortat has the strength and the body to take on Howard. Plus, on the season, the Hawks have just not performed well against the Wizards.
Against all other teams this season, the frontcourt of Millsap and Howard averaged 19.8 points in the paint. Against the Wizards, they only averaged six points in the paint.
While the Hawks’s defense has been excellent this season, and their overall play has been improving (they have a +3.2 net rating since April 1st, as opposed to their -0.8 net rating on the season), they just don’t have the personnel to be able to take down the Wizards in this series.
Personally, I’m predicting that the Hawks end up edging one game out of this NBA Playoffs series, and the Wizards win this series in five games. And with relative ease.