Open Thread: Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks, Regular Season Game 2

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The Essentials:

Wizards (1-0) vs. Hawks (1-0)
7:30 p.m.
Phillips Arena
TV: CSN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Notable Hawks numbers last season

13th in expected winning percentage (.556)
24th in pace (89.6 possessions per game)
10th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (109.3)
12th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (107.6)

Pre-game links

Peachtree Hoops, SB Nation's Atlanta Hawks blog
Hoopinion, a Hawks blog
Peachtree Hoops game thread
Hawks Blog with Sekou Smith, one of the best newspaper beat writers this game has
Wizards Insider: The Other Side: Atlanta Hawks
Competition Discussion: Atlanta Hawks
Peachtree Hoops game preview
GameDay Atlanta

Tonight's Projected Starters
Wizards vs. Hawks
Gilbert Arenas
PG Mike Bibby
Mike Miller
SG Joe Johnson
Caron Butler SF Marvin Williams
Fabricio Oberto
PF Josh Smith
Brendan Haywood C Al Horford

 

As a reminder, I will be engaging in a live chat tonight on ComcastSportsNet.com.  Click here for more information on that.  Obviously, I think you should all participate in the game thread here, but feel free to also go over there and ask me some questions.  Kyle will manage tonight's thread tonight while I chat on ComcastSportsNet.com.

Tonight's a pretty big early-season test, as the Wizards head into the house of the team many feel they will be competing with for the fourth spot in the East.  Atlanta's the incumbent, having secured that spot by several games last year.  They return all their key players and have added Jamal Crawford, Joe Smith and the rookie Jeff Teague to their bench.  They're definitely a tough out, particularly at home. 

Some observations about the Hawks, gleaned from watching their season-opening win over Indiana and from the other times I've watched them over the years.

  • I've never been Joe Johnson's biggest fan, but the guy is a really tricky cover.  He's crafty once he gets into the lane and changes speeds very well.  However, much like his old teammate Steve Nash, Johnson is really dangerous if you allow him to pick you apart with his passing.  When he drives, he's much better at drawing defenders and setting up others than he is at finishing.  It's going to be very important for the Wizards to not overhelp, because that's exactly what Johnson wants.  He'll pause in the lane until the defense comes to him, then feed someone else.  Atlanta's entire offense kind of depends on Johnson's passing, so I say you make him score and shoot a lot of shots to get his points.  If he hits a bunch, you live with it, if it means others aren't getting involved.
  • Josh Smith is going to be a really tough cover.  He completely overwhelmed the Pacers with his quickness and strength, even as they laid off him daring to shoot.  In the past, he might have taken the bait, but he didn't do that against Indiana.  The Wizards are going to have a lot of trouble if they put Fabricio Oberto on him. 
  • Al Horford is one of those guys who gives Brendan Haywood trouble because of his ability to step out and shoot.  However, on the other end, Atlanta's one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league, so Haywood should have plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities if he aggressively goes after the ball.
  • Like Dallas, Atlanta's perimeter defense against quick point guards is awful.  Mike Bibby is too slow, and Jamal Crawford is just an abysmal defender in all respects.  Luther Head was making moves and dropping points on him the other night.  Once again, Gilbert Arenas needs to be aggressive.
  • Maybe this was just what I saw yesterday, but the Hawks were always hanging around in the backcourt trying to steal outlet passes against the Pacers the other night.  Mike Bibby and Smith were the primary offenders.  Indiana wasn't ready for it and committed 25 turnovers, so the Wizards need to be careful.  If they are, they could get many transition opportunities.
  • Jeff Teague is actually a pretty good player.  Was impressed by him in the Indiana game.

My keys to the game:

  • Gilbert Arenas needs to stay aggressive going at Bibby.
  • Whoever guards Joe Johnson needs to lay off him and make him shoot from the outside.  If he does get in the paint, make sure Brendan Haywood is really the only guy helping much.  Make Johnson a scorer, not a passer.
  • Crash the offensive boards, but smartly.  Atlanta is slow-paced, but that's because their half-court offense is very deliberate.  They'll run off misses and convert transition opportunities.
  • Corral Josh Smith.  This is where Andray Blatche really needs to be smart and build on his big game against Dallas.  Smith can be contained if you're smart, but you have to be both disciplined and quick. 
  • Attack their bench.  I imagine we'll see Randy Foye and Jamal Crawford matched up with each other.  If so, Foye really needs to spend a lot of time attacking Crawford off the dribble.  Normally, I wouldn't advocate this, but Crawford really is a brutal defender.
  • Keep Zaza Pachulia off the offensive glass.  If I were Flip, I'd match up Oberto with Pachulia, because Oberto's the superior box-out guy.  Pachulia's offensive rebounds really energize the crowd there.
  • Don't help off Mike Bibby.  Gilbert, I'm looking at you!

Game starts at 7:30.  GO WIZARDS!

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