Wizards-Hawks Preview Capsule
A look at the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards (with regular season and playoff records):
No. 1 ATLANTA HAWKS (60-22, 4-2) vs. No. 5 WASHINGTON WIZARDS (46-36, 4-0)
Season series: Hawks, 3-1. Atlanta won the first three meetings before giving its entire starting lineup the night off on April 12 and going with Elton Brand, John Jenkins, Mike Muscala, Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder in a 108-99 loss. The Hawks averaged 110.3 points with their regular team and made 16 3-pointers in a 120-89 rout on Jan. 11.
Story line: After needing six games to eliminate No. 8 Brooklyn on Friday in the first round, the Hawks face a rapid turnaround with this series starting Sunday afternoon. Washington has had a week off after completing its sweep of Toronto with a 125-94 victory on April 26.
Key Matchup I: Jeff Teague vs. John Wall. Wall averaged 17.3 points and 12.5 assists and outplaying a banged-up Kyle Lowry in the first round, but it’s a much fairer matchup against fellow speedster and All-Star Teague. Teague averaged 21.7 points against Washington during the season and showed he can control a game without scoring at all in the Game 6 clincher against the Nets, handing out 13 assists while shooting 0 for 5.
Key Matchup II: DeMarre Carroll vs. Paul Pierce. Carroll scored 20 or more points in the last four games of the first round, averaged a team-high 17.5 and was called the series MVP by Nets coach Lionel Hollins. Pierce actually has won a postseason MVP award, from the 2008 NBA Finals, and was at his crafty best against the Raptors, shooting 58 percent overall and from 3-point range and setting the tone for the series with his clutch play in overtime in Game 1 in Toronto.
X-Factor: Marcin Gortat. Atlanta can be hurt by a big body inside, as the Nets’ Brook Lopez showed, and Gortat should be confident he can do it after making 29 of his 39 shots (74 percent) and averaging 17.3 points against the Raptors.
Prediction: Hawks in 7.