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Wizards vs Hawks Game 2 preview: Atlanta aims to even series with Washington

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Game 2 may not be a "must-win" for the Atlanta Hawks, but it's close.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

25% from the field. 19% from three-point range.

Those numbers, of course, represent the second-half output of the Atlanta Hawks in a Game 1 loss to the Washington Wizards, and the home team will be aiming to rectify those shooting issues in Game 2. Mike Budenholzer (predictably) focused on the defensive end in his remarks on Monday, but that simply aligns with his philosophy over anything else, with the team undoubtedly aware that they must execute at a higher level offensively in order to even the series.

It must be stated that Atlanta did not execute flawlessly in other areas during the second half of the series opener, but the shooting was likely unsustainable. The Hawks were generally happy with the looks they received (with good reason), and with a bit more time to recuperate (nearly 48 hours instead of approximately 36 for Game 1), fresher legs could be key to improved shot-making.

From a match-up perspective, the Hawks must defend at a higher level, especially against the guard combination of Bradley Beal and John Wall. Washington's duo of guards didn't shoot the ball particularly well in Game 1, making just 17 of their 41 shots, but they were allowed to move freely around the floor in a way that Budenholzer did not enjoy, and John Wall's 13 assists (against two turnovers) were key for the Wizards.

Following Sunday's loss, we took a deeper dive into the bench issues that plagued the team in that game, but this is now a seven-game sample of struggling work from the reserves. Pero Antic, Dennis Schröder (we think) and Kent Bazemore are "musts" in terms of the logistics of a rotation, and Budenholzer must extract value from that trio (and, potentially, Mike Scott) in order to effectively spell his starting group. The lineup data is undeniable with regard to the dominant nature of the starters during the playoffs, and it will also be interesting to see if Budenholzer turns more to that group as a whole.

"Must-win" situations are generally overstated in the NBA Playoffs, but this just might be one for the Atlanta Hawks. The series certainly wouldn't come to an end if the team fell short in Game 2, but given that Games 3 and 4 will take place in the nation's capital, anything short of a victory on Tuesday evening would place the Hawks in ugly shape from a series perspective. The stakes are high, but on the bright side, this group has responded under the bright lights this season, and there is no reason to expect that they won't do the same in Game 2.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Tuesday, May 5, 8:00 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

TV: ESPN

Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM