The 2016-2017 NBA season has come to an end and in just over 12 hours the Washington Wizards embark on their post-season run. In this post we are going to dive deeper into the season stats for both the Washington Wizards and the Atlanta Hawks, and give our 5 keys to the series then finally make our official Defeating The Curse prediction.
First, lets take a look at the season stats. As you can see in the graphic above the Wizards are a better team in almost every statistical category with the exception of rebounds per game, and even then the Hawks are less than 2 boards per game better than the Wizards. This is going to be an extremely important category for at least the first half of the series as the Wizards are going to be missing probably their best rebounder on the team in Ian Mahinmi. If you have been following our blog or our podcast you know that I, LP, has been specifically high on Ian. Mahinmi has only averaged 4.8 rebounds per game and 5.6 points per game in his 31 games this season. However, in his only game against the Hawks, on March 22, he racked up 10 boards. 5 on the offensive glass, and 5 on the defensive glass. Mahinmi is surely going to be missed, let’s just hope his calf can heal sooner rather than later. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated this week. With Mahinmi out that surely doesn’t mean the Wizards are doomed so lets look at 5 specific things that could propel the Wizards to the second round.
- Calling on all centers, surprise! This is on the top of my list with Mahinmi out. 19, 10, 13 and 15. Those are the number of boards that Dwight Howard has put up against the Wizards in 4 games this season. Dwight hasn’t had much success scoring against the Wiz, only having 1 good scoring game. However, the centers specifically Gortat and Smith (likely the only 2 to play) need to do a better job of boxing Dwight out and being physical with him. Dwight surely isn’t the player he was in Orlando or even Houston but he can still play. The Wizards have to keep him in check. The hack-a-Howard tactic likely won’t be used since he isn’t the scoring threat he once was so the Wizards centers just have to out physical him and get him into foul trouble.
- Back court duo – No surprise here, the Wizards are as good as John and Brad make them. I have little to no fear here as I am fully confident in these guys. These guys are still young but this is their 3rd post season, and John probably has extra incentive (not that its needed) to beat out Dennis Shroeder since being injured in the 2014-2015 playoffs.
- Holding the Hawks to under 100 – The Wizards and 3-1* against the Hawks this season. There is an asterisk by the 1 because that was the first game of the season. We all know that the Wizards team game 1 and the Wizards team November and on is a completely different team. Anyone who says different clearly knows nothing about basketball or just hasn’t watched this team. In all games except the one marked by the asterisk the Wizards held the Hawks to at or under 100 points. In the playoffs teams usually don’t score as much as they do in the regular season so this matters even more. Defense, defense, defense! The Wizards can be a great defensive team it just all comes to effort and leadership. Again this is where John and Brad can lead the team.
- Keef – Markieff Morris has to keep Paul Milsap in check. John Wall spoke some strong and encouraging words saying that this is going to be a good matchup for Morris and he has full confidence in Morris. This is Keef’s first playoff appearance and we all know as he has said many times he’s just ready for the playoffs to start. Keef has had some success scoring against the Hawks and I look forward to continued success in the playoffs.
- Bench scoring – Generally in the playoffs the bench plays less, but in this series I look to the bench being effective. Bo-Buckets has cooled off a bit in the last 8 games but when it comes to bench scoring it starts with Bojan. He has got to get back into the form he was in before this slump. Maybe a few days off is exactly what he needed. Jason Smith, Kelly Oubre, Brandon Jennings can all help in this category as well but look to Bojan Bogdanovic to get back into form, the catch and shoot has to be lethal again. After all that IS why we call him Bo-Buckets.
We all have full confidence in this team, and I think the last month of the season wasn’t a plateau but more of a temporary slump. Scott Brooks has instilled an energy and excitement in this team and I think the slump ends in less than 12 hours. I have the Wizards winning this series 4-1, as a matter of fact all the members of DTC have the Wizards winning this series. Lets fill the phone booth! DC Family lets get this done!