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Wizards vs. Hawks preview: Washington to play key divisional game in Atlanta

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NBA: Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

When: Friday, January 27, 8 p.m. Eastern Time
Where: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 1500 AM and Wizards Radio App

Injury Report

Wizards: Ian Mahinmi (Out, Knee), Danuel House (Out, Wrist)
Hawks: Mike Muscala (Game time decision, Ankle), Tiago Splitter (Out, Hamstring)

What to watch for

Can the Wizards assert themselves as the top team in the Southeast?

The Hawks have dominated the Southeast Division ever since LeBron James left Miami for Cleveland. With all due respect to Paul Millsap, they’ve managed to do this without a “true superstar” on the roster, relying with a more-than-the-sum-of-it’s-parts team defense and a democratic, motion-heavy offense.

Coming into Friday’s game, the Wizards are just 1.5 games behind the Hawks. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, the two teams would match up as the 4-5 seeds. If the Wizards can catch Atlanta and win the Southeast, they’ll hold the tiebreaker for playoff seeding. There is still a long ways to go before the playoffs, but a few January games can matter a lot in April.

Will the Wizards’ role players continue to produce?

The Wizards phenomenal December and January is largely attributable to two things: A relatively weak schedule, and big improvements from role players Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre. The safe money is probably on all three of these guys coming back down to Earth, but if this level of play is the new normal expect the Wizards to stay comfortably in the playoff hunt.

Most Likely Wizards Killer: Malcolm Delaney

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

27 year old rookie combo guard Malcolm Delaney has earned a spot in the Hawks rotation, averaging 17 minutes a game. He’s scoring 6 points per game and shooting just 28 percent from three. That sounds exactly like the kind of guy who will have a career game against the Wizards.