Atlanta Hawks vs. Washington Wizards Betting Guidance
By Dan Favale
Washington Wizards (-225) vs. Atlanta Hawks (+185)
Many people won’t be inclined to give the Atlanta Hawks much of a chance in this series. Their efforts to close the regular season were less than ideal, and they’ve entertained breaking up the band so much over the past year, there’s a stigma against the current core, even if it’s not fair.
To be sure, some of the concerns are warranted. The Hawks rely a lot on Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kent Bazemore rather than conventional floor generals to fill time as the secondary playmaker, and the offense has been hot garbage overall for a while now. Over the last 31 games of the season, Atlanta placed dead last in points scored per 100 possessions, behind even the Orlando Magic—a standing that causes problems no matter how well you are defending.
Fortunately for the Hawks, in the grand scheme of things, they’re catching the Wizards at the right time. Though Washington has one of the best records in the NBA since Christmas, it’s fallen off lately, particularly on the defensive side.
On top of that, fatigue might already be an issue for them. They don’t have much of a bench, even with Bojan Bogdanovic and Kelly Oubre Jr. playing competent minutes, and are forced to lean heavily on their starting five.
The lineup of Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and John Wall wasn’t just the most-used five-man combination for the season; it was one of the most-used units from the past decade, period. That’s absolutely, positively absurd into today’s age of resting players.
Everyone with the exception of Gortat is still in their primes, but we saw this group taper off as the season wore on. Porter’s scorching-hot three-point clip ebbed after March 1, Morris was up and down almost the entire year, and the aggregative defensive effort dropped off a cliff in the waning weeks.
There’s always the chance the Wizards regain their mojo during the postseason. There will be more rest in-between games, and the Hawks don’t run an offense that demands they can get in transition too frequently. And there’s little to no chance the Hawks catch fire on offense themselves. They’ve been struggling to space the floor all season, and the battle has only gotten tougher since they traded Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But remember: Atlanta ended up fourth in points allowed per 100 possessions during the regular season, just behind the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. Defense-heavy attacks like this one become much more dangerous in the playoffs, when the pace slows down and the refs allow a more physical brand of basketball to be played.
Beat up Wall and Beal in the half court, and the Hawks will not only find themselves putting up an adequate fight, but potentially leading the series. They are a real threat, and the Wizards must treat them as such. So although Washington enters as the semi-heavy favorite relative to most four-seed vs. five-seed matchups, we cannot guarantee they traipse into the second round of the playoff bracket unscathed.
The Pick: Washington Wizards (-225) in six games