The Atlanta Hawks won't have much time to prepare for the Washington Wizards in advance of Sunday's Game 1. Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer didn't necessarily see that as a bad thing. Budenholzer talked about his team's situation with the media on Saturday and said they would keep the game plan simple for Game 1.
"I think that everything is condensed and crunched a little bit," Budenholzer said. "But I think sometimes that if the goal is to keep it simple, to keep it clean....Again you try to turn everything into a positive. So I think we go in really clean, really simple with the game plan, with our minds, with our mentality. Don't tell anybody, but coaches can over coach. Reduced time, there is the potential to hopefully keep it clean and simple. Players are going to compete, players are going to play and ultimately that is more important."
The Hawks didn't have much trouble against the Wizards during the regular season taking three of the four meetings. The only game Atlanta lost came on a night where they rested their entire starting lineup. Budenholzer though was impressed by Washington's Round 1 victory over Toronto and doesn't think you can read too much into what happened during the regular season.
"Obviously they played extremely well in the first round," Budenholzer said of the Wizards. "They were efficient really on both ends of the court. They won different ways. They won some low scoring games, won some high scoring games. I think they've got a lot of confidence. I think the regular season, I'm not sure that there is too much stock to put in that. We know each other well. It's a division opponent so you play them four times. I think they are familiar with us and we are familiar with them."
Washington has had nearly a week to prepare and rest up for Game 1. The Hawks didn't wrap up their series against Brooklyn until Friday night and will have a little over a day to prepare. Budenholzer wasn't ready to say which was the better route to take. Atlanta is in a rhythm but seldom would any coach turn down the opportunity to have plenty of time to prepare.
"It's always the great debate," Budenholzer said when asked about rest versus being in rhythm. "I think the fact that we've been playing, we are in rhythm and it's every other day. If we can make that an advantage, then it's to our advantage. If they are rested and for some reason that is a benefit to them. The proof will be in how both teams play. I guess afterwards hindsight will be 20/20 but going into it I think we are looking to continue to play and compete and stay in a rhythm and be in a good place."
The Hawks will keep the game plan simple, but Budenholzer admitted that transition defense and slowing down Wizards' point guard John Wall would be priority No. 1 for his club.
"I think the way we think about it is this team in transition is priority No. 1 and John Wall is obviously a big part of that transition. There are other pieces that have to fall into place for us to be good in transition defense. We know how important our transition defense will be in this series and this Game 1. He is kind of the one that leads that thrust so it is kind of one and the same. Transition defense is going to be a huge priority and priority No. 1.
Isn't strange to hear Budenholzer talk about transition defense being such a high priority for his team. That is something that he has talked about often during the regular season. One of the reasons Atlanta has such poor offensive rebounding numbers is that they rarely send multiple people to the boards opting instead to get back and set their defense. Wall averaged 21.8 points and 9.8 assists in four games against Atlanta this season but was turnover prone averaging 6.8 turnovers per game.
Atlanta's offense struggled early on in the series against Brooklyn but began to turn the corner as the series progressed. Will be interesting to see if the Wizards come out rusty and if the Hawks can carry the momentum over from Friday's Game 6 into Sunday's Game 1.