Between a frustrating end to the 2022-23 season to trading the franchise cornerstone to a 5-25 start to 2023-24, this year has not been kind to the Washington Wizards. But the team can end the year on a winning streak after beating the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. They face the Atlanta Hawks, who have dropped their last four games. A win on New Years’ Eve would give Washington its first winning streak since early March 2023.
When: Sunday, December 31 at 3 p.m. ET.
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington
TV: Monumental Sports Network
Wizards: Danilo Gallinari, Out (back); Tyus Jones, Questionable (Foot)
Hawks: De’Andre Hunter, Out (knee) Mouhamed Gueye, Out (Back), Seth Lundy, Out (Ankle); Onyeka Okongwu, Doubtful (Illness) Trae Young, Probable (Knee)
What to watch for
For the second game in a row, the Wizards take on a struggling team in the middle of the Eastern Conference. Trae Young’s Hawks have dropped four straight games and 10 of their 13 games in December, same as the Wizards. Atlanta lead each of their last four games by double-digits before blowing the leads in the second half. The Hawks are sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, two games out of a spot in the play-in tournament. They will be hungry for a good performance in DC.
Atlanta won both matchups between the teams this season in November. The Hawks trashed the Wizards 136-108 in the last game. Young cruised to 26 points and 10 assists as he diced up Washington’s defense. Deni Avdija and Kyle Kuzma have been efficient against Atlanta this year while the guards have struggled to find their footing. Avdija and Kuzma both played great in the win over the Nets, so they should be expected to lead the Wizards again.
Defending Young and the Hawks will be a challenge in general. The Wizards struggle to cut off dribble penetration and, often, leave bigs defending two players. Young feasts in those situations. In turn, the Hawks grab a lot of offensive rebounds as the bigs have to respond. They rank 3rd in the NBA for offensive rebounding percentage, according to Cleaning The Glass. Washington ranks dead last in defensive rebounding percentage. If the Wizards can hold Atlanta’s offense at bay, they should be able to score on the other end as the Hawks give up a lot of good looks at the rim.
It should be a good game and there’s a decent shot that the Wizards win. That has not been a statement we’ve been able to say much in 2023. Let’s hope we can say it more in 2024. Happy New Year!