Forest C. Godwin, Feature Columnist
Basketball fans in Atlanta and Washington D.C. are in for an all out sprint when the Hawks welcome the Washington Wizards to the Highlight Factory for game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals. It’s conceivable that if both teams are shooting hot on any given night a fan leaving their seat to get popcorn could miss twenty points being scored. Best spend the extra few dollars for the tub of popcorn and soda in order to see all the action.
Both teams like to move the ball, shoot from three point territory and cause turnovers that lead to buckets of transition scores. The Washington Wizards pace setter is guard John Wall. The speedy Wall is the focus of the Wizards offense. His speed keeps defenders off balance, his penetration and pass to the player on the wing, usually Otto Porter or Paul Pierce, has left opponents picking their poison. Should they allow Wall to penetrate and get two at the rim or collapse on Wall and hope Wizards swingmen miss a jumper. Center Martin Gortat and griseled vet, forward Nene pose a different set of problems for the Hawks. Both can clog passing lanes and have solid footwork in the paint on both offense and defense. Speaking of griseled vets, Paul Pierce doesn’t need to start to cause matchup problems when he steps on the court. He knows the game, knows big spots and knows how to get into the head of his opponent and fans. The Hawks will need to be solid defensively and create big leads to minimize Pierce’s impact late in the game.
The Atlanta Hawks are more than capable to handle what the Wizards will throw at them. The series may go seven games, but that’s simply because there will be nights when one team is shooting much better than the other and the game can be won early on. The Hawks move the ball and spread the floor as good as any team left in the playoffs. Ball distribution is key and is part of why more than five players scored double digits in all but game 4 against Brooklyn in the first round. The Hawks will be looking for guard Kyle Korver to come out firing from three and forwards Al Horford and Paul Millsap to continue being scoring threats from anywhere on the floor. The Hawks play team defense. It’s not quite zone, not quite man to man, but they get the job done. They are quick to get out on the wing to defend shooters, can clog driving and passing lanes that the Wizards guards use so well. Usually that results in turnovers where the Hawks can be deadly in transition.
Imagine a track meet in baskeball shorts. Both teams will be doing the 95 foot dash for 48 minutes. Fans may find themselves sweating while watching. Some refer to the Hawks domination of the regular season as suprising, even a fluke. The Wizards, many call upstart. But both of these teams have recent playoff experience and have earned the right to play into May. This moment is not too big for anyone who will suit up for each game in the series. Atlanta Hawks over the Washington Wizards in 7 game.