A little over a year ago, I left the DMV for Atlanta. I was sad to leave, but at least I would still get to see the Wizards live at least twice a year. Competitive games between evenly-matched Division rivals, or so I thought. I figured the Wizards could certainly steal a game on the road, and maybe even win both. And I though the Al Horford-led Hawks were a likable enough team, one that I could root for in the playoffs if they were still around when the Wiz got eliminated.
Friends, I was wrong. The Hawks won the regular season series 3-1, with the Wizards lone win coming from a game at the end of the season in Washington where Atlanta rested all five starters and John Wall played 35 minutes. Being in Phillips Arena on January 11, 2015, when the Hawks won 120-89 and the Wizards looked like they had given up by halftime, was one of my most demoralized moments as a Wizards fan.
And then the playoffs happened. A ray of hope after stealing an away game, followed by the heartbreak of John Wall breaking his hand and returning to play the two final games anyway. The unfairness of that not being enough. The unfortunate "Paul Pierce called series" moment we’d all like to forget - I was in a bar, surrounded by Hawks fans when that happened.
I want revenge. I also don’t want to go down 0-1 on season predictions while it’s still November. Let’s win this one, and the next three.
When: November 7 @ 7:30 PM EST
Where: Phillips Arena in Atlanta
TV: CSN Washington, Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: WNEW 99.1 FM if you're in the DMV area , 92.9 in Atlanta
For the Wizards, Alan Anderson is out. For the Hawks, Thabo Sefolosha is day-to-day.
Storylines we’re watching
No seriously, where is the defense? The Wizards' defense has been questionable all season, and it was their undoing last night in an embarrassing loss to the Celtics. The 'Zards allowed the Celtics to score 72 points in the first half. They cleaned things up a little bit in the second, but not enough.
Can Bradley Beal continue his success against Kyle Korver? Beal found a new identity as a defensive stopper in the playoffs last year, sticking to Korver like glue and forcing him into some of his worst performances of the season. Korver went off against the Pelicans last night, shooting a perfect 8-8 from the field and 4-4 from 3, dishing five assists and and grabbing 7 boards. Beal (and Porter) cannot let that happen again tonight.
How will the Wizards frontcourt match up with the Hawks frontcourt? Al Horford and Paul Millsap are defensive nightmares for everybody. The Wizards are only marginally better equipped to stop them this year then they were last year (Jared Dudley being a better defensive matchup for Millsap than any big that was on the team last year), but if Dudley can play heavy minutes and Kris Humphries can hit his threes, we may be able to mitigate some of the damage. Also keep an eye out for ex-Spur Tiago Splitter, who gives the Hawks the option of playing big with a more traditional center.