Dominate the boards
The rebounding numbers between these two teams were pretty even over their four matchups in the regular season, with the Wizards holding a slight edge. The Hawks lost three of those matchups, and in the single game they did win, they dominated Washington on the glass. Atlanta actually edged out Washington, out-rebounding them 48-42, but Washington collected 15 offensive rebounds. That number is way too high and Martin Gortat was a huge factor in the victory. Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard are the anchors of this team. It is going to be up to them to be more physical against Gortat and Morris and keep them off the glass. If the Hawks get beat by Wall and Beal they will have to tip their cap, but allowing Gortat and Morris to continue to beat them down low will give Atlanta an uneasy feeling heading into the offseason.
Tim Hardaway Jr. needs to shine
Most basketball fans know who Tim Hardaway Jr. is, but many of them have not been graced with the opportunity to see just how much he has progressed since coming to Atlanta two offseasons ago from New York. His first season in Atlanta was disappointing, but Hardaway Jr. has worked his way up and become a terrific professional basketball player. Yes, I said terrific. He is no longer a streaky shooter, who would take terrible shots and was uninterested in defense. Hardaway has become the Hawks best pure scorer, and there is a reason why Budenholzer has inserted him into the starting lineup in the playoffs.
The Hawks can compete defensively with this Wizards team, but John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to get theirs. Atlanta is going to have to find some explosive scoring from somewhere, and Hardaway has been that guy down the stretch of the season. Since the all-star break, Hardaway has averaged 17.8 points per game while shooting 47.1% from the field and 37.3% from the three-point line. That is the best scoring the Hawks have gotten out of a shooting guard since the Iso-Joe days (shoutout for that Game 1 buzzer beater). Hardaway is getting closer and closer to becoming an all-star caliber player, and the Hawks are going to need him to show it the rest of the series if they want to advance.
Somebody has to slow down John Wall
John Wall has elevated his game since the Hawks saw him in the playoffs two seasons ago. He has taken that step into the realm of superstars in today’s NBA. The Wizards were looking for life in the second half after a lackluster start, and the former #1 overall pick took over the game in the third quarter scoring 15 points and dazzling the crowd with his passing ability. Stopping Wall is a impossible task. Slowing down Wall is much more realistic, and the Hawks are going to have to find a way to do that to win the series.
For the most part, the Hawks stuck with Dennis Schroder on Wall, but that is a nightmare matchup for Schroder defensively. Wall’s combination of size and speed requires a bigger defender, and Atlanta opted to keep their best defender on the bench for the entire night. Thabo Sefalosha did not see any playing time in Game 1, but expect that to change in Game 2. The Hawks will likely use a combination of defenders on Wall going forward, but expect both Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefalosha to get a chance at slowing down Wall.
However, none of this is going to matter if the Hawks do not put heavy emphasis on getting back on defense. The Wizards are one of the best fast break teams in the league because of Wall, and those type of buckets are going to happen throughout a game. But too many times, the Hawks found themselves caught out of place after a make, and John Wall was able to go the length of the floor for an easy bucket. That is unacceptable, and the Hawks must limit those opportunities in Game 2.