This may be the series with the least buzz around it, but may very well be the most important. Both feature teams with emerging star point guards, and both teams are very evenly matched. This will be a series of skill vs coaching.
The Hawks had a slight struggle getting out of the first round due to the odd resilience the Nets showed in the first round. Initially the series looked like a sweep until Atlanta’s offense began sputtering in games three and four. What I took away from that performance is that the Hawks have trouble executing in high intensity games on the road. The doubts they’ve faced all season of not having “that guy” will arise again throughout the series. However, Atlanta does have the ability to score through their amazing offense, and can cause many problems by using Korver to remove an extra help defender. Watch for Atlanta to move the ball swiftly and attempt to create easy buckets to create a rhythm for themselves.
The Wizards showed pure dominance over a decent Toronto team. John Wall has been dazzling through this playoff run and will continue to display it through this round. Paul Pierce has also returned to his vintage ways by hitting big shots when the team needs them. The Wizards have stepped up their defensive play, and only allowed Toronto to score more than 100 points just once in the series. It seems as though they’ve peaked at the right time. However, their issue will be on offense. Depending on John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Paul Pierce won’t be enough. Their bigs, Nene and Gortat, will need to establish themselves going forward.
- J. Wall vs J. Teague
- B. Beal vs K. Korver
- P. Pierce vs D. Carroll
- Nene vs P. Millsap
- M. Gortat vs A. Horford
The biggest factor is who will win the point guard battle. If John Wall is able to have another great series, then we can chalk this up as a win for the Wizards. However, if Jeff Teague is able to slow him down and play as an emerging star, then this will be a win for the Hawks.
The Wizards need Bradley Beal to play huge in this series. John Wall helped against Toronto, but this matchup is for him to win. He’s struggled in the playoffs, so this is the perfect time for him to get out of that slump. I see him needing to score 20+ per game to win.
Defense is the last big factor. Both teams play good team defense, but for the Wizards, Gortat and Nene will need to find a way to keep up with Paul Millsap. Being a stretch 4, he has the ability to knock down shots on the perimeter. One of them has to neutralize him.
Prediction: The Wizards beat the Hawks 4-2.
The Wizards have much more firepower than the Hawks and a better point guard. As long as John Wall stays aggressive, and the Wizards continue playing at their peak; I don’t see the Hawks really beating them.