Are the Wizards Ready for Atlanta?

by: Stephen D. Riley and Perry Green AFRO Sports Desk
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Dennis Schroder, Drew Gooden
Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17), from Germany, shoots in front of Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 108-99. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Washington Wizards aren’t out of the woods yet, but they’re up 3-0 against the Toronto Raptors in a series that history says will end soon and favorably for the lower-seeded Wizards. Washington has outplayed Toronto at every turn, but there’s always room for improvement, especially against a talented Raptors squad. After a so-so regular season, the Wizards haven’t proven enough to be trusted in close-out games, so they’re in no position to look ahead. But that won’t stop the AFRO Sports Desk from doing it. Washington could face up with Atlanta in the second round provided that both teams win series that they’re currently leading. The Hawks could prove to be a much different opponent than Toronto if both teams were to square off but who wins? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, of the AFRO Sports Desk, debates the issue.

Green: Kyle Lowry’s injuries have zapped a lot of intangibles from the all-star guard, seemingly handing the point guard edge to John Wall and the Wizards. Washington has taken advantage of a one-sided match up against Toronto and turned it into a dagger that the Raptors can’t help but run into. Atlanta, however, is healthy for the most part, with an all-star point guard of its own in Jeff Teague. Washington won’t be able to just run up and down the court while watching the opposition trot into their sets and run plays. The Hawks have been the best team in the Eastern Conference and it’s barely been close. They have enough firepower to outgun the Wizards and enough defense to corral a team that is known to get into scoring droughts.

Riley: If Washington beats the Raptors then they’ll go into a potential series with Atlanta brimming with confidence and swagger. All the pressure will be on the Hawks to win the series – but it’ll be tougher than what most expect. The Hawks and the Wizards match up well, and Washington appears to be turning things up a notch with the postseason started. Atlanta was the best team in the regular season, but Cleveland and Washington have been the two most impressive teams so far in the Eastern Conference. Washington has the size and talent to match up with the Hawks well and they’ll still have an advantage in the point guard department. Wall is arguably the top point guard in the Eastern Conference and he’s still bigger and faster than Teague in the open floor.

Green: Atlanta shoots better, passes better and plays defense better than the Wizards, but we’ll see firsthand should the teams square off. The Hawks’ ability to adapt to any style gives them a distinct edge that most teams, including the Wizards, simply can’t match. Atlanta spaces the floor very well with stretch-fours and big men who can step out to three-point range. It’s a difficult team to go up against, and the Wizards are still a traditional team that needs its big guys on the floor to rebound effectively and play defense. The slower Wizards would have their problems with Atlanta, especially their “bigs” as everybody on the Hawks can run well and pass efficiently. It’s a different type of breed that the Hawks have on the floor playing now and for a more traditional team like the Wizards, they would have big time struggles with a team as sound as the Hawks.

Riley: So far this postseason, the Wizards have been pretty sound too. NBA history tells us that you can’t really put too much stock into the regular season because the playoffs is another level of basketball. Washington stepped up last year and proved they weren’t scared of the bright lights. The Hawks cruised through the regular season, but few teams orchestrated blueprints and game plans to slow them. Teams now have film and a season-long tape on them. The Wizards have the right mix of veteran players and a defensive-minded coach that can effectively slow them and top them in a seven-game series. Washington wouldn’t be scared of a second round matchup with Atlanta, in fact, I think they would welcome it. This Wizards team is on a collision course with the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Washington set out to be a top three team in the conference before the season started but they faltered in the middle of the season. They’re back and shining with confidence, and I’m calling early: Washington in six games over Atlanta in the second round.

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