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Wizards vs. Hawks preview: Atlanta hosts Washington in battle of East’s hottest teams

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It’s Friday and there is a big game this evening.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference match up on Friday evening and the Atlanta Hawks are one of them. The Hawks went into Chicago and escaped with a stunning win on Wednesday, while the Wizards held a “funeral” at home and backed up some trash talk in a sound victory over the Celtics. Now, the teams face off for the first time since early November and much has changed on both sides.

John Wall and Bradley Beal form one of the best backcourts in the NBA and Atlanta will be charged with holding the duo in check. Wall and Beal combined for 58 points in Washington’s win over Boston and, while Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore will get a crack at Beal at some point, Dennis Schröder will need to hold serve (at the very least) against an All-Star in Wall.

Elsewhere, the Hawks hold significant advantages. Washington’s Otto Porter is having a breakout season at the small forward spot, but Atlanta’s combination of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard should be able to thwart a Wizards front line that is reasonable but unspectacular. On the bench, Mike Budenholzer’s team also has a strong edge, with the Wizards deploying a unit that has been justifiably maligned throughout the season. It should be noted, though, that Mike Muscala remains questionable after missing a handful of games with an ankle injury and Atlanta’s bench has taken a hit in his absence.

Atlanta’s schedule, especially in the recent past, has been rather weak but that changes on Friday. The good folks in Las Vegas have installed the Hawks as a 3.5-point favorite at the time of this post, with projection systems like FiveThirtyEight and NumberFire also referencing Atlanta as a solid favorite to claim victory.

Are the Hawks up to the challenge? That remains to be seen, but some extra eyes will be on this match-up of division rivals as they jockey for position in the Eastern Conference standings and the prime-time Friday night audience will be able to enjoy a high-level match-up. Stay tuned.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Friday, January 27, 8:00 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena

TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM