Wednesday night’s loss against the Los Angeles Lakers was bad. Not only did Atlanta’s vaunted defense completely collapse, but the Hawks also lost a highly winnable game during an “easy” schedule stretch to open the season. Occasional off nights are normal for even veteran NBA teams, but this particular game was difficult to swallow.
Fortunately, Atlanta can focus on their next opponent, and will look to start a new winning streak on Friday night against the Washington Wizards. The Hawks opened the season with a win in Philips Arena against Washington, and will look to win their second consecutive game against this division opponent.
This game could be difficult for Atlanta. The Wizards are almost certainly better than their 0-3 record, and should be close to desperate for a win right now. One of the key factors in the season opener was a fourth quarter barrage of points from Atlanta’s bench unit, and (since that can’t be expected every night), this matchup could easily go either way.
The Wizards have been a popular pick to finish first in the Southeast this season, but stumbled out of the gate so far. None of their losses have been to bad teams (Memphis and Toronto), but an 0-3 start hardly inspires the kind of confidence that this team hopes to build on. Regardless, a lineup with John Wall and Bradley Beal is a threat to put up big numbers on any given night, and Atlanta will need a much better defensive performance to compete.
The Hawks’ upcoming games also make Friday night’s matchup even more important. Atlanta faces Houston on Saturday, and then heads to Cleveland on Tuesday. Their 3-0 start was inspiring, but these next three games could erase that if the Hawks don’t continue to play well.
Dwight Howard and Kent Bazemore will be two players to watch on Friday. Howard played extremely well against Los Angeles, and will be a huge factor against Washington if he can continue at a similar level. Bazemore, on the other hand, has struggled early on, and will be looking to play better against a quality opponent. The team’s defense as a whole is also key. It’s hard to envision them playing worse than they did against Los Angeles, but Washington is a much better team and will require more effort on that end of the floor.
This will be a big game for both teams. Atlanta looks to wash the bad taste of a Lakers loss out of its mouth, while Washington hopes to avoid an ugly 0-4 start. Both teams are talented, and both teams are hungry.
Game Date/Time: Friday, November 4, 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Verizon Center, Washinton, D.C.
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM