Be honest: Which team were you hoping to face in the first round?
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't excited about any of the potential first round matchups for the Hawks. I have been pretty pessimistic about this team pretty much all season long and that hasn't changed as we enter the postseason. It essentially came down to Washington or Toronto and I don't know that either one is a better matchup than the other.
If I had to make a pick I would have said the Wizards simply because their defense fell off so much after the All-Star break. Atlanta is not a good team offensively so the defensive end of the floor for Washington will be one of the big keys to this series.
The last time these two played in Washington, the Hawks led for most of the game until the Wizards took control late in the game. Why do you think Atlanta was able to play so well for most of the game, and why do you think it all fell apart late?
The answer is John Wall. He was scoreless at the half of that game and was 0 for 8 from the field. He ended up with 22 points and scored 10 in the fourth quarter. Paul Millsap also didn't play which is a huge factor for Atlanta. Still I think Wall is the key and the Hawks have had some success against him in the past. Turnovers have been a big part of Atlanta's offensive struggles and I think that presents itself more often in the fourth quarter of close games.
Even after some big roster turnover, the Hawks still have one of the best defenses in the league this season. What makes the Hawks' defense work so well, and how do you think they'll try to slow down the Wizards in this series?
When people talk about Mike Budenholzer they usually center on his history of the Spurs and his offensive style of play. One thing he has shown during his time in Atlanta though is that he is a heck of a defensive coach. I don't feel like this Hawks team is as good defensively as they were the past two seasons but they are solid enough to get the job done. Paul Millsap's versatility is the key and teams really can't bully the Hawks on the offensive boards with Dwight Howard on the floor.
The one area they aren't as sharp in is defending on the perimeter. They were 16th in opponent's three-point percentage and were 29th in opponents' three-point attempts. Atlanta's guards often struggle to stay in front of their man forcing their defense to rotate and they aren't always on point with their rotations back out to the perimeter to defend the three-point line. Against guys like Wall and Beal, that could be a real problem.
What's your series prediction?
This Hawks team has been the definition of inconsistent this season. They started 9-2 and followed that up with a 1-10 stretch. For every three-game winning streak they had a three-game losing skid usually followed. They finished the regular season on a high note but it remains to be seen if they can carry that momentum into the postseason. I hope I'm wrong but I'm skeptical that they can. Wizards in five.