What the Atlanta Hawks hope will be a long playoff run gets underway on Sunday when they travel to the Verizon Center to take on the Washington Wizards in the Game 1 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Atlanta began the season 9-2 but battled its way through up and down stretches from there and settled in at 43-39 and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks once again ranked among the best teams in the league defensively but a sharp drop off on the offensive end of the floor combined with some inconsistency made for an uneven season.
They did finish the season on a good note however, and enter the postseason with some measure of momentum. Wins over the Celtics and Cavaliers in the season’s final week helped secure their spot in the postseason.
Mike Budenholzer isn’t going to tinker with that success announcing this week that he would stick with the same starting lineup featuring Tim Hardaway Jr and Taurean Prince. That combination worked well down the stretch and the return to health of Thabo Sefolosha further solidifies the bench unit.
Washington got off to a slow start this season before kicking things in high gear. They struggled a bit themselves following the All-Star break but appear ready to make some noise in the postseason. Homecourt advantage in the series could be big considering the Wizards 30-11 mark at the Verizon Center this season.
John Wall and Bradley Beal put together spectacular seasons and will be the focus for the Hawks on the defensive end of the floor. Keeping Wall out of transition will be key while staying attached to Beal in halfcourt situations will also be paramount.
Both teams are among the league leaders in forcing turnovers but Washington excelled at turning those extra opportunities into points. Atlanta needs a steady performance from Dennis Schröder and needs to establish themselves early if they hope to steal a game on the road.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, April 16, 1 p.m. ET
Location: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
TV: TNT, Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 92.9 “The Game”