The Hawks appeared to be a team in danger after dropping two games to the Brooklyn Nets during the first round of the playoffs. All of a sudden something clicked during game six, and the Hawks finally proved why they were the No.1 team in the east after delivering the Nets a devastating blowout in-front of their home crowd.
A balanced offensive attack has once again extended their impressive season, next stop –the Eastern Conference semi-finals where they will face a formidable Washington Wizards team looking to make some noise of their own. The Hawks own the regular season matchup versus the Wizards with a 3-1 record, including a win on the Wizards home court. But the postseason should deliver a new challenge as the Wizards have elevated their game to the next level after an impressive 4-0 sweep of the Toronto Raptors.
Both teams have a slew of talented players and a solid bench, unfortunately, each have areas of concerns. Which team has the edge in the most important categories, and which strengths will help solidify their chances at advancing to the next round?
GM 1: WAS at ATL, May 3, 1:00 PM ET ABC
GM 2: WAS at ATL, May 5, 8:00 PM ET TNT
GM 3: ATL at WAS, May 9, 5:00 PM ET ESPN
GM 4: ATL at WAS, May 11, 7:00 PM ET TNT
GM 5: WAS at ATL, May 13 TNT | If Needed
GM 6: ATL at WAS, May 15 ESPN | If Needed
GM 7: WAS at ATL, May 18 TNT | If Needed
Offense and Defensive Matchups
The Hawks arguably have the best ball movement among any team in the east, and with their four All-Stars Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and Kyle Korver — this team is offensively dangerous at just about every position on the floor, and with their ability to shoot the three-ball, the Wizards can’t afford to leave them open.
The Wizards aren’t as fined tuned as the Hawks, but John Wall should win the point guard match-up against Teague while Nene and Marcin Gortat could very well own the inside with offensive rebounds and easy put-backs. Bradley Beal has a slight edge due to his ability to finish at the rim, unfortunately he will also be busy running around chasing Kyle Korver off of screens and back-picks.
And the Winner is…
Both teams will have their advantages on both ends of the court, but I think the Wizards have the most efficient defensive players in Nene and Gortat because of their size, rebounding, and shot blocking ability. Millsap and Horford have a slight edge in both the points and rebounding categories, but I think they are facing a different Wizards team– a team on the rise.
Prediction: This will be a slow defensive focused series, and If the lowly Nets managed to extend the first round series to six games, you’d be a fool not to expect both teams to expand this series to at least seven.
In the end I have the Wizards defeating the Hawks (4-3)
Sauping R. Arguello (NBA Contributor): The Atlanta Hawks advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs but not without a slight scare versus a tough opponent in the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets sent the Hawks a wake up call that once the playoffs begin, the regular season records are out the window. Awaiting them is the Washington Wizards, who swept their first round opponent Toronto Raptors in an impressive fashion. The Wizards are clearly aware that the Hawks are an entirely different team that will give much more resistance.
The point guard match up will be a dandy. John Wall and Jeff Teague are two of the fastest, if not the fastest players in the NBA from end to end. Don’t blink because their motors are always running on high gear. Bradley Beal versus Kyle Korver will also be interesting. These are two of the best pure shooting guards in the east. DeMarre Carroll will try to continue his impactful playoffs facing a savvy, experienced veteran, Paul Pierce. The bigs of ATL, Al Horford and Paul Milsapp will go up against Nene and Marcin Gortat. The starting lineups are reasonably equal but Atlanta’s team play will prevail versus a Washington team that has been up and down all season.
Prediction: It will be close and competitive but the Hawks will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals in 6 (4-2).