Game Preview: Hawks vs. Wizards
The Hawks (25-27) will host the Wizards (25-28) with both teams on the second game of a back-to-back and both teams losing their first game after the All-Star break. Both teams will be looking to get on track, as the two have lost 11 of their last 12 combined games — the lone win being the Wizards over the Kings on Feb. 9.
The Wizards will look to All-Star John Wall to help pull them out of their slump. Wall had a nice performance with 19 points and seven assists in the loss to the Raptors last night. Wall’s explosiveness and ability to get to the rim and create for himself — with layups, floaters, and drawing fouls — as well as facilitating to the rest of his team will have to be the primary concern for the Hawks’ defense. Jeff Teague will have to step up to the challenge of slowing down Wall, and part of doing that is taking care of the ball on the offensive end and not turning it over — as the Hawks did 22 times against the Pacers — that will allow Wall to get into the open court where he is extremely dangerous.
In the frontcourt, Marcin Gortat and Nene present a size issue for the Hawks, who are currently missing Pero Antic, Al Horford, and the status of Gustavo Ayon — who injured his shoulder in Indiana — is still unknown. The Hawks may have to rely on Elton Brand, Paul Millsap and Mike Scott to once again carry the load in the frontcourt, and those three will have to find ways to neutralize the Wizards’ size at both ends of the floor.
Neither Gortat nor Nene are particularly adept at defending in space, so drawing them away from the basket and attacking them in pick-and-roll/pop as well as getting Scott and Millsap the ball in space so they can face-up and attack will be something to look for the Hawks to try to do. On defense, the Hawks — as Coach Bud always says — will have to do their work early to keep Nene and Gortat from getting to their spots both in post ups and rolling to the rim.
The Hawks — shorthanded as they are — will still look at this game as an opportunity to gain an extra game advantage on the Wizards in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Keeping the Wizards in the halfcourt and making Wall’s drives difficult at the point of attack on defense, and drawing the Wizards’ bigs out into space and attacking them off the dribble will be of the utmost importance if the Hawks are to get the win.
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