This is a big one.
The Atlanta Hawks have the opportunity to even the first round series against the Washington Wizards on Monday evening. After a two-game mini-sweep in the nation’s capital, the Hawks operated at a much higher level in Game 3 and, in short, the Wizards were not able to match it. However, the difference in desperation level should be mitigated a bit in Game 4 and that provides something of a more ominous picture.
On the positive side, the play of Paul Millsap and Dennis Schröder has been stellar. Millsap was phenomenal in lighting up Markieff Morris in Game 3, while Schröder continues to play at the highest level that anyone could have rationally expected in this series. Yes, John Wall continues to be a problem for the Hawks in this series and at least some of that has to do with Schröder’s limitations. Still, Atlanta needs their most prolific scoring duo to play well and they have answered the bell.
However, the Wizards received virtually nothing from their high-end supporting cast in Game 3 and that seems likely to change. With the combination of Bradley Beal (who shot 6 of 20), Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter and Morris struggling, Washington becomes a one-man band that is more manageable for Atlanta but, provided one or two of those players awaken, the task becomes more difficult.
In addition, it will be interesting to see how Mike Budenholzer manages the rotation in what is, effectively, another must-win game. Atlanta was not forced to put the pedal to the metal in Game 3 given a sizable early lead but that seems to be an unlikely situation for Game 4. How much will Budenholzer deploy Dwight Howard? Can he get away with more minutes for Schröder and Millsap, especially in the second half?
There are questions to answer but it now feels as if the Hawks have a puncher’s chance in the series and that is a change from before the weekend arrive. Let’s do this together.
Game Date/Time: Monday, April 24, 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena
TV: TNT, Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM