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Wizards vs. Hawks preview: Washington looks to get back on track against divisional foe

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night in a battle of two teams trending in the wrong direction as the regular season is coming to an end. Washington has lost two straight games and four of five overall while the Hawks are in the midst of a four-game skid with three of those losses coming by double-digits.

Atlanta will be shorthanded in this one as both Kent Bazemore and Paul Millsap are expected to miss the game with knee injuries. This is a prime opportunity for Washington to pounce on a team that’ll be missing two of their starters.

The Hawks also come into this game ranked 25th in the NBA in three-point field goal shooting. But like we’ve seen in recent games against the Bulls, and Hornets, that’s irrelevant as the Wizards have been giving teams wide-open looks from three.

Game Info

When: Wednesday, March 22nd at 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic, ESPN
Radio: 1500 AM and Wizards Radio App

Injury Report

Wizards: None

Hawks: Kent Bazemore (Out, Knee), Paul Millsap (Out, Knee)

What to watch for

Did the loss in Boston finally get this team’s attention?

This team is in a funk and is either very fatigued or is just going through the motions thinking it will be enough to guide them to a victory. That didn’t work on Monday night as the Celtics thoroughly outplayed Washington. But, did the blowout get the Wizards’ attention or will they revert to their lackadaisical ways knowing that they should win this game as the Hawks will be missing two starters?

If the Wizards drop this game, they could have a major problem on their hands with a tough Western Conference road trip right around the corner.

What will the frontcourt provide?

The frontcourt of Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat are all in the midst of a slump. Otto still is knocking down his open three-pointers but is starting to pull a few disappearing acts that we became all too accustomed to last season. Maybe his nicks and bruises are a little more nagging than we though as he continues to ride the bike every time he exits the game or is the talk of a max deal swirling around starting to mess with him?

Yes, Morris missed the Chicago and Charlotte games due to an illness but even so, Morris hasn’t been the same player since the All-Star break. Morris has an opportunity to get back on track against Atlanta’s weakened frontline.

Marcin Gortat is also experiencing what looks like his annual March slump. Stats aside, Gortat’s biggest issue is his inability to stay on the floor. Recently, Gortat has been picking up two fouls very early in the first quarter only to pick up his third when he re-enters the game. He’s out of rhythm and his shooting and scoring are taking a big hit. Unlike Porter and Morris, things don’t get any easier as the big man will be matched up against Dwight Howard.

Is this the game the Wizards decide to play defense?

Again, defense has been a major issue for the Wizards as they rank 26th in the league in defensive rating since the All-Star break. Players aren’t boxing out, rotations are slow, there are no hustle plays, and guys are switching way too easily. The Wizards have an opportunity to pounce on a short-handed team who’s been getting blown out a ton as of late if they can just play some better defense.

And if they don’t, expect this game to come down to the wire just like the Chicago game.

Most Likely Wizards Killer: Mike Muscala

NBA: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Muscala posted an efficient 9 point, 4 rebound performance when the Hawks and Wizards faced off in the season opener, and then posted 10 points, and 7 rebounds in just 22 minutes of action when they faced off again just a week later. If Washington tries to go small off the bench, Muscala could feast on the glass and behind the arc.