This week, the Atlanta Hawks dropped the first two games of their opening round playoff series against the Washington Wizards. The team followed up this opening set of losses with a huge victory on Saturday night, bringing the series to 2-1, ensuring a game five, and finally solving the dilemma of playing competent offense and defense at the same time. In addition, some interesting comments from Hawks owner Tony Ressler provided some insight as to the near-term future of this Atlanta team.
The first three games of the playoffs were a roller coaster ride for Atlanta, something that mirrors most of the regular season. The Hawks looked disheveled and disorganized in Washington during the first two games, and struggled on both ends of the court. The team was completely unable to stop John Wall and Bradley Beal, for example, and struggled to score as well. Dwight Howard played close to minimal minutes, as Mike Budenholzer opted to go with either Mike Muscala or smaller lineups for extended minutes.
Washington was always going to be a difficult matchup for the Hawks, and the first two games showed why. The Hawks have a borderline-elite defense, but the guard positions — where Beal and Wall do nearly all of their damage — are some of its weakest parts. Add the speed disadvantage that comes with extended minutes given to Howard, and Atlanta (predictably) struggled. These two games were actually much closer than they could have been, since the Hawks hung around for nearly all of them despite these disadvantages.
In addition, some interesting news popped up from Hawks owner Tony Ressler. Ressler state in an interview that he controls many of the basketball decisions, which sheds light on the decisions to sign Howard and not trade Paul Millsap. Without getting too into the weeds on whether or not these were good decisions, it’s interesting to hear that Ressler is so involved in many of the basketball operations. Ultimately, the most interesting part of this interview was when Ressler stated his commitment to staying competitive in the short term. If this is to be believed, then Millsap can expect a massive contract from Atlanta this summer.
Looking ahead, Atlanta could potentially play three games this week. The series will extend to at least Wednesday night, which will be game five. Game four is on Monday, and game six, should it arrive, will be on Friday night. The long breaks between games in the first week appear to be over, as the teams will play every other day until the series is over. After Saturday night’s bounce-back performance, Monday night’s game will be huge. Atlanta can guarantee a game six with a victory, while Washington can all but end the series with a big win. Perhaps the bottom line for this week should be the Saturday night win. The series is still in Washington’s favor, and will still be difficult to win, but this huge performance after losing the first two is a huge victory for this Hawks team.