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The Hawks have forced the Wizards out of the paint

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

The Wizards can score with anyone.

Washington’s starting unit of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat had a regular season offensive rating of 111.9, the ninth best of any five man lineup that played at least 300 minutes together. It was hard to look at the Wizards offense and see how any team could slow it down for long.

Well, the Hawks have found a way to slow them down. In Games 1 & 2, the Wizards have an average offensive rating of 108.8, just a bit better than the team’s regular season average of 108.5. But in Game 3 & 4, their offensive rating was just 95.3. If a team had an offensive rating that low over the course of an entire season, it would be the worst mark in the league by a full five points.

How did the Hawks slow down the Wizards’ high-octane scoring? There’s no single factor. Bradley Beal was just 2-16 on threes with no defender within four feet, but that should naturally correct itself. Foul trouble for Gortat and Morris has led to a bigger playoff role for Jason Smith than any of us expected: The Wizards second most used lineup through four playoff games has Smith replacing Morris at power forward.

But that doesn’t give the Hawks enough credit. Good defenses take away the spaces their opponent wants to score from. And that is exactly what has been happening:

With each consecutive game, the Hawks have forced more of the Wizards’ offensive production out of the paint. In Game 1, they scored nearly half of their points in the paint. By Game 4 it was down to just 30 percent.

The decrease in paint points has mostly corresponded with an increase in points in the midrange area. In the regular season, the Wizards got about 18 percent of their points from midrange shots. That’s jumped up to an average of 21 percent in the playoffs, a number that would have led the league in the regular season.

Meanwhile, the Hawks have spent the playoffs living in the paint, scoring 45 percent of their points there, compared to just 10 percent from the midrange.

The Hawks’ defense is dictating the Wizards offense, not the other way around. That needs to change if the Wizards want to make it to the second round.

All data from nba.com/stats and current as of 4/25/17