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Wizards vs. Hawks Game 4 preview: Washington hopes to head home with series in hand

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Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks - Game Three Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Wizards lead the Hawks 2-1 in their first round playoff series and hope to come back to Verizon Center on Wednesday with a 3-1 series lead. Here’s the preview:

Game Info

When: Monday, April 24, at 8 p.m EST.

Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

TV: TNT, CSN Mid-Atlantic (D.C. area), Fox Sports Southeast (Atlanta area)

Injury Report

Wizards: Ian Mahinmi is day to day with a calf injury, but Scott Brooks said he will not play in Game 4 and has not practiced with the team. Otto Porter is expected to play after suffering an injury in Game 3.

Hawks: The Hawks are expected to have their full roster available.

Keys to Victory

Can somebody please help John Wall?

The most frustrating part of Washington’s 116-98 loss to Atlanta in Game 3 was that it wasted a fantastic performance from Wall, who delivered 32 points and 7 assists on 10-of-12 shooting in basically three quarters of work.

Wall got next-to-no help from backcourt mate Bradley Beal, who stayed aggressive but just couldn’t get his shot to fall. Beal finished 6-of-20 from the field and 0-of-6 from three.

None of Washington’s other three starters scored more than 9 points, and the trio collectively shot 8-of-25 from the field.

To figure out why the Wizards offense struggled so uncharacteristically in Game 3, look no further than those numbers.

If the Wizards can capitalize on those opportunities like usual in Game 4, then this series should move closer to the relatively breezy feeling of the first two games.

Bold take: The Wizards must give their full effort

Atlanta’s best moments of this series have almost universally come when the Wizards are standing around and fouling instead of moving their feet on defense.

The Hawks want to muck up the game and prevent Wall from getting out on the break and engaging in his typical acrobatics. They want to slow down the pace when the starters are in, and then ramp it up to take advantage of their solid match-ups against the Wizards bench.

Washington needs to put in the work on defense and not just expect to pull every game out late: The Wizards haven’t ended the first quarter with the lead in any game so far.

This series, like most is a battle of wills, and this Wizards team is notorious for packing it in when things are going well.

Game 4 will likely be a bloodbath, particularly given the ongoing vitriolic duel between Paul Millsap and Markieff Morris. If the Wizards show up with the same lackadaisical attitudes of Game 3, they’ll head back to D.C. in real danger of losing the series.

Most Likely Wizards Killer: Mike Muscala

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer hasn’t prioritized Dwight Howard’s minutes in this series because Marcin Gortat guarded him successfully for most of the first three games.

That has left an increased number for minutes for back-up option Mike Muscala. The Moose hasn’t found his shot through the first three games, but the prospect of his shooting has still provided extra space for the Hawks’ successful bench units.

He has yet to break out in a big way — his 8 points in Game 1 remain his series-high — but that frankly just makes him more likely to kill the Wizards in Game 4.