Atlanta at Washington
Time: 7 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: WAS -7
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
If the 2017 playoffs began today, the Atlanta Hawks would square off against the Toronto Raptors in a 4 vs 5 matchup sure to intrigue. Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards have taken control of the No. 3 seed and would face the Indiana Pacers. But, the playoffs do not begin today, and there is still a legitimate chance that this could be a preview of a the 4 vs 5 matchup in the Eastern Conference. That said, the Wizards are hot, and will be hosting the Hawks at home as 7-point favorites.
The Wizards have compiled a 27-10 record at home this season, which makes the surge to the No. 3 seed so crucial. Washington will have homecourt advantage for the first round, in the somewhat unlikely scenario these teams should collide in an opening round matchup.
Washington has cooled somewhat as winners of 6 of its past 10, but since the All-Star break, they have been among the league’s elite. The difference? Washington has added a couple key bench pieces, and Bojan Bogdanovic heads that list as a major performer now that he is on a legitimate team, not the Brooklyn Nets.
Bogdanovic is averaging 15.3 points and three rebounds per game while shooting blistering percentage since joining Washington.
Bogdanovic is good for 42.9 percent of his threes as a Wizard while attempting over five per game. He was a missing piece, but there are others. Washington still has one of the poorer second units in the league, notwithstanding that Brandon Jennings was expected to provide some kind of lift (he has not). Kelly Oubre Jr. remains a relative key to the Wizards attack because they are a far better team when he is engaged after coming off the bench. That said, this is a team still so heavily reliant on its starters, all of whom play 32 minutes per game, or more (with Wall topping out at nearly 37 per night).
Can Washington sustain this method? It really depends on if it can keep its star backcourt from burning out. Bradley Beal leads the team in scoring at 23.1 points per game, but Beal is attempting 17.1 shots per night and playing 35 minutes a game. When the rotations tighten up in the postseason, that may increase slightly further still. Will Beal be able to handle the workload? He has been shown to be injury prone thus far through his career, so betting on it is hardly a sure thing. The only sure thing at this point is that Washington will be in the postseason and at this point represents a tough challenge for any opponent perhaps except the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland is still a tier above the entire rest of the Conference, even with Kevin Love out and Cleveland continually opting to rest it stars. The No. 1 seed is firmly in their possession.
Atlanta at 37-33 has been a bit of a disappointment, and the Hawks have dropped its past four games to the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets. This is a tough way to get back on track for a team that just has had a lot of issue scoring the basketball. Over the last four losses, Atlanta has failed to score 100 points in all games, and they managed just 90 in the loss last game to Charlotte.
Given the league’s trend towards higher scoring games, Atlanta is facing a losing battle in being unable to generate mass offense. Who on its roster shall go off, other than Dennis Schroder, and not even he overwhelmingly so?
Atlanta made the mistake of parting ways with one-time All-Star Kyle Korver, and while the Hawks have some nice young players in tow, it is unclear how Atlanta can configure its roster around both Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard to drive it towards contention.
Perhaps that will never be in the cards for Atlanta, whose perpetual mediocrity has become something of a calling card at this point.