Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
The Atlanta Hawks (5-4) play host to the Washington Wizards (0-9) tonight, and will have their full compliment of players available as they look to win their third game in a row.
The Hawks will be at full strength and figure to be well rested after a day off from practice Tuesday when they face-off against the Wizards at 7:30 PM at the Highlight Factory (that name being really tested this week with the Magic and Wizards in town). Larry Drew told us the Hawks starting lineup (a rarity at shootaround), and the Hawks will run out the same group that started against Orlando: Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, Josh Smith, and Al Horford.
The Wizards have become the laughing stock of the NBA and at 0-9 they would be easy to look over, but everyone said after shootaround today that the focus is completely on Washington and not looking ahead to the weekend when they play the Bobcats and Clippers back-to-back.
"They're a team that got off to a slow start, but in watching their games their still playing extremely hard," said Larry Drew. "You know, six of their losses have been by seven points or less, which I told our guys this Wizards team is very capable and they've got some good players over there and guys that have a lot of pride. We're gonna have to come out and really challenge ourselves to be the type of team we can be. We have to start putting forth a consistent effort on both ends."
"They're the type of team that can score the ball. I mean, they have guys that can score the ball like [Jordan] Crawford, and I think they're just hungry for a win," said Horford. "You know they haven't won a game, but they're gonna be ready to go tonight."
After a rough night Monday on offense, the Hawks are looking to bring a better energy tonight, and to be sharper in their execution of sets.
"I'm hoping we'll be a lot better than we were Monday night. I thought our guys were still a little tired getting back after that West Coast trip. I didn't see the sharpness or crispness in our execution," remarked Drew. "I thought it was really important yesterday that we use it as a maintenance day for guys who had been playing a lot of minutes to take care of their bodies and hopefully it will do some good and tonight they'll come out and play sharper than we did on Monday night."
"[We need] to come out with more energy collectively and try to execute better on offense," said Horford. "We're feeling better. I think a day makes a big difference, we're glad we got the win on Monday, but we have to focus on tonight."
"[We need] to just run our sets hard, come out with some energy, and play together," said Josh Smith. "We're gonna have to match their intensity, cause you know they're going to come out hard looking for a win."
"[We need] to just make plays. I think we played a good defensive game, but we've got to get out on the fast-break a lot more. I think we played [Monday] a lot slower than we wanted to," said Jeff Teague.
The Wizards offense has struggled of late, and the Hawks defense has been surprisingly effective (and the Hawks have been able to make bad teams look bad, i.e. Kings and Magic). Tonight the focus will be on contesting shooters, forcing turnovers, and getting on the glass. The Wizards can be forced into turnovers and bad shots (they rank last in the league in effective field goal percentage and offensive efficiency per Hollinger Team Stats) so the Hawks defensive strategy will be, as Jeff Teague said, "to get in their face on the perimeter." This will hopefully force tough shots (something the Wizards are easily persuaded into taking) and also open up the Hawks fast-break that has been, to this point, relatively disappointing in the early season.