The Runner Sports

How The Wizards Can Close Out The Hawks Tonight

The east’s 4-5 matchup has been one of the most surprising series of the first round. Surprising as in unexpected entertainment. I thought this series would be the NBA TV series. Instead, it has featured mostly close games and great individual performances. Tonight will be Game 6 of the series in Atlanta. So far the home team has won each game in the series. With a 3-2 lead in the series, can the Wizards finally win a game on the road and close this series out.

A Look Back at the Series so Far

Games 1 and 2 in Washington were both close games. The Wizards won Game 1 by 7 and Game 2 by 8. John Wall led the way in both games posting over 30 points and 10 assists in each game. Bradley Beal also had his way with Tim Hardaway Jr. Their starters played well, but as usual, the bench was disappointing, especially on defense. On the other end, Dennis Schroder and Paul Millsap kept the Hawks close. Atlanta is a good defensive team, but their lack of firepower showed in the first two games.

When the series shifted to Atlanta the series took a sharp turn. Atlanta jumped all over Washington in Game 3, and were up by 18 by the end of the first. The Wizards had what seemed like a million defensive breakdowns in the first half. On offense, only John Wall showed up. It seemed like the Wizards simply threw this game. For Game 4, the Wizards were better on offense. Bradley Beal had a monster game. However, the defense continued to disappoint as they gave up 111 points to a team that was 27th in offensive efficiency. They ended up losing by 10 and went back to Washington with the series tied.

Game 5 back in Washington was close and exciting. Washington ended up winning by 4, but it wasn’t easy. They survived a career game from Dennis Schroder, who had 29 points and 11 assists. The Wizards also had to deal with foul trouble to Markieef Morris, and that paved the way for Paul Millsap to have a strong game. On the other end, Beal continued his strong play, but they also got some unexpected production from their role players. Otto Porter had 17 and Boban Bogdanovic chipped in 14. In a game this close, their production was critical in getting a win. Looking forward to Game 6 the Wizards will need to translate the success they’ve had at home on the road. They do not want this to go seven against an experienced and well-coached team.

Keys for Game 6!

As I mentioned earlier Atlanta has not been kind to the Wizards so far this postseason. Both losses were by double digits. To win this game there are three things the Wizards must do.

1. Markieff Morris Must Avoid Foul Trouble

This has been the theme of the series for Morris and the Wizards. In Game 1, Morris avoided foul trouble and played 38 minutes and had 21 points. Since then he is averaging 25 minutes a game, 5 fouls per game, and 7.2 points per game. After Game 1, Paul Millsap said the Wizards were playing “MMA”, that might have led to a tighter whistle for the rest of the series. Morris also called Millsap a “cry baby” after Game 3, that probably hasn’t helped either. Morris has had trouble defending Millsap without fouling, but he is still their best option to defend him. Martin Gortat is too slow, Otto Porter is too skinny.

For the series, the Wizards are +5 when Morris is on the floor. If he could play at least 30 minutes tonight, that will greatly help the Wizards chances to win. Besides his defense on Millsap, he also provided the Wizards with rebounding, and a nice pick and pop partner for Wall. The Wizards’ bench is weak and inconsistent, they need Morris to play more minutes.

2. Bench Production

Speaking of the bench, it has been a weak point for the Wizards all season. Their backup center, Ian Mahinmi, is out. At the deadline, they got Brandon Jennings and Boban Bogdanovic, but they struggle on defense. To win this game, their bench has to be solid on both ends. In wins, the bench is actually scoring less than in losses. 22.75 points per win and 30 in losses. A lot of that though is a 39-point production from the bench in garbage time in Game 3. In this game, the bench will need at least 25, and that is mainly up to Brandon Jennings and Boban Bogdanovic.

The more important side for the bench is defense. An area that unit has struggled in. The numbers show it, the Wizards’ bench is -84 in plus-minus for the series. Most of that is because they really struggle defensively. They need to be good on offense to offset their weak defense. If they can simply be average on defense, and contain Atlanta’s shooters, the Wizards should be in good shape. If Millsap and Schroder do well, that’s fine, but the Wizards can’t handle a third player going off.

3. Stars Play Like Stars 

We can talk about Morris and the bench, but at the end of the day, Washington’s stars need to show up. It’s not like they haven’t so far, Beal has averaged 24.8 points and Wall has averaged 27 for the series. They both need 25 plus to win this game. I would like Wall to go to the basket early, get Dwight Howard in foul trouble, open up the pain and unleash the Wizards shooters.

For Beal, he needs to run off tons of screens, wear down Hardaway Jr, and be aggressive early. Mix it up, get in pick and rolls, and pull Dwight out of the point, get the midrange going. Go to the basket, and take the three when available. Hardaway Jr can’t guard him, and Beal knows it.

On the other end, these two have to set the tone defensively. Particularly Wall, he can be great on defense when engaged. If these two give maximum effort, the others should fall in line.

Prediction!

Before the series started, I picked the Wizards in 6. Atlanta is a very good defensive team, have a good coach and playoff experience. I knew this wouldn’t be easy for Washington. That being said Washington is the better team, and I think they close it out tonight on the road.

Evan Dyal

Evan Dyal

Charlotte Hornets Writer at The Runner Sports
Evan Dyal