Another series, another set of predictions. Once again, we had our staff make their predictions on who would come out on top in the Wizards vs. Hawks series and we'll be going from least optimistic to most optimistic.
There's a lot of reasons to like the Wizards in this series. They're playing their best basketball of the season, Al Horford and Paul Millsap are playing through injuries, and John Wall will be the best player on the floor. But it's hard to shake how well the Hawks played against the Wizards in the regular season. Yes, the Wizards showed they could dominate a team in the playoffs that swept them in the regular season, but those games they lost to Toronto were were more competitive than the ones they lost to Atlanta. And as well as Otto Porter defended DeMar DeRozan, I'm not sure he's going to do as well chasing Kyle Korver around screens. I'm more confident in the Wizards' chances to make this a competitive series and pull off the upset, but my gut still says Washington isn't quite at Atlanta's level. Hawks in six.
The Washington Wizards will have their hands full in this round. The Hawks closed out their series strong against the Brooklyn Nets, and began to look like the team everyone feared they could be in the postseason. It's impossible to predict if we will see #PlayoffRandy pull something out of his sleeve or if he will revert back to #OffensivelyChallengedRandy once he's pitted against Mike Budenholzer. Regarding the quality of starting units, you could probably give a slight nod to Atlanta. However, what could potentially save the Wizards in this series is the lackluster play from the Hawks bench. Dennis Schroder, Pero Antic, and Kent Bazemore got large swaths of minutes in the Brooklyn series and were low-key awful. If the Wizards can get under Dennis Schroder's skin and force him to continue his poor play then the Wizards have the potential to make runs while the Atlanta bench is in the game. John Wall's defense will also be crucial on Jeff Teague, who twice this season was a #WizKiller with 28 & 26 points. Wall will need to shut him down. This will be a series of close games, but in the end I think Washington wins in seven.
There is no doubt that Washington's first round trouncing of the Toronto Raptors was much more impressive than Atlanta's 6 game win over the Brooklyn Nets. It's fair to point out the suddenly resurgent Wizards offense (112.5 points per 100 possessions) did come against the putrid defense of the Toronto Raptors, who gave up 104.8 points per possession in the regular season, the 23rd best defense in the NBA. That said, Atlanta played a defense that was just as bad as the Raptors in the Brooklyn Nets, whose defense gave up 105 points per 100 possessions in the regular season, and didn't have a good offense to make up the difference. So if you want to discount the Wizards dominance because of the competition, that's fine, just keep in mind the Hawks were taken to 6 games by a Brooklyn team that was below average on both sides of the ball all season.
I am picking the Wizards to win this series in 6 games despite their failure to beat the real Hawks team this regular season. Washington is trending in the right direction, has all hands on deck and have figured out the kind of lineups offensively that should be able to keep up with Atlanta's high power attack. Atlanta is not playing as well as they were earlier in the year, have several key players hampered or out with injuries (who would have thought the goonery of the NYPD and Kelly Olynyk would have such an impact on the Eastern Conference playoff picture), and will be playing a well rested Washington team.
Hang on tight Atlanta fans, playoff Wittman and the Wizards are coming to drag you down to their level. In the words of Georgia poet laureate Bubba Sparxx, come 1 PM on Sunday, "Now it's getting ugly."
The Atlanta Hawks have regained their regular season form in the last couple of games after a rocky start to their postseason. If Washington can continue to play the way they have against Toronto with Wittman in #PlayoffRandy mode, Pierce continuing to deliver momentum shots, and Otto defends like he did to DeMar DeRozan, Washington should be able to win the series in six games.
The Hawks' offense came alive in the final two games of their series against the Nets (for the most part). On paper, Atlanta even has the better roster from top to bottom, especially looking at the bench. But Al Horford and Paul Millsap are both dinged up and won't be 100 percent healthy at any point in the playoffs at this point. Enter Marcin Gortat and Nene. Neither of them can really defend along the perimeter, which is especially scary when defending Millsap. But on the offensive end, Gortat, Nene and even Drew Gooden, who has suddenly decided that he can hit threes, they should be able to take advantage of the injuries in the Hawks frontcourt. Otto Porter Jr.'s defense won't completely shut down Kyle Korver or DeMarre Carrol's three-point shooting, but it will likely minimize their impact on the floor, considering how quiet DeMar DeRozan went in their first-round series. It'll be a great series, but the Wizards have health on their side and should be able to gain the edge in the frontcourt. Wiz in 6.