Wizards second-round preview: Pacers or Hawks?

Wizards second-round preview: Pacers or Hawks?
April 30, 2014, 12:15 am
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We know the Washington Wizards have advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference postseason for the first time since 2005. We just don't know their next opponent, not yet.

Washington faces the winner of the Indiana Pacers-Atlanta Hawks series, which right now is going the way of the massive underdog. The eighth-seeded Hawks lead the skidding and No. 1 seed Pacers 3-2 with Game 6 taking place Thursday in Atlanta.

Much, much more on these teams in the days ahead, but here's a quick primer on the Wizards' potential matchups. The second-round series could start this coming weekend if Atlanta closes out the series on Thursday.

Wizards-Pacers

*Regular season records: Washington, 44-38. Indiana, 56-26

Nov. 29: Washington 73 Indiana 93

Jan. 10: Washington 66 Indiana 93

Mar. 28: Indiana 78 Washington 91

*The Wizards two lowest scoring games of the season came against the Pacers, who have one of the deeper rotations in the league.

*Of course, those losses came against an Indiana squad that looked the part of a possible NBA champion. That version hasn't existed for nearly two months. Since March 4, Indiana is 12-16 while Washington is 17-10. In that stretch came a dominant Wizards' victory at the Verizon Center behind 20 points from John Wall and a Marcin Gortat double-double. Wall's numbers: 13.7 points on 34 percent shooting with 6.7 assists and 3.0 turnovers.

*Before that win, Washington lost 11 of 12 in the series.

*Not surprisingly, Paul George stuffed the stat sheet. The All-Star forward averaged 16.7 points, 9.0 rebounds. 3.3 assists, 3.0 steals. However, he shot a dismal 32.7 percent from the field. Trevor Ariza would once again get the assignment.

*Two months ago most would have given the big man edge to the pair of David West and Roy Hibbert over Nene and Gortat. Now the scales tip Washington's way after Nene had a dominate first round series and Hibbert entered the Witness Protection program.

*Washington shot 37 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from beyond the 3-point against Indiana.

*Nene only played one off the three regular season games. Same for Andre Miller. Bradley Beal missed one of the losses.

Wizards-Hawks

Regular season records: Washington, 44-38. Atlanta 38-44

Nov. 30: Atlanta 101 Washington 108

Dec 13: Washington 99 Atlanta 101 (OT)

Feb. 19: Washington 114 Atlanta 97

Mar 29: Atlanta 97 Washington 101

*The Hawks' lone victory came with Al Horford in the lineup. Less than three weeks later, the big man suffered a season-ending pectoral injury. Following the injury, Atlanta went 22-31. Only the lack of quality teams in the Eastern Conference kept the Hawks in the postseason, but they've taken advantage of the opportunity versus Indiana.

*Wall (21.3 ppg, 10.3 apg) and Gortat (12.5 ppg, 10.0 rbg) averaged double-doubles against the Hawks this season. Wall's talent trumps that of fellow point guard Jeff Teague (15.5 ppg, 5.0 apg versus Washington), but both can carry their respective teams to victory.

*Kyle Korver, the NBA's top 3-point shooter this season (47.2%) missed two of the four games versus Washington. He rarely missed any 3-point opportunities against the Wizards, finishing 6 of 11. Once again, a challenging assignment for Ariza.

*Interesting matchups up front. Nene versus Paul Millsap pits two All-Star caliber power forwards head-to-head. Marcin Gortat gives Washington the clear edge at center over his doppelganger, Pero Antic, though the Macedonian native will force Gortat away from the basket if he can make 3's. Overall, the Wizards have deeper options up front.

*Don't look now, but former Wizards draft pick Shelvin Mack has evolved into a legitimate backcourt threat. Washington's second-round pick in 2012, Mack had 20 points and five assists in 25 minutes in Atlanta's 107-97 Game 5 win over Indiana. He also has enough strength to fend of Andre Miller in the low post, but certainly lacks "The Professor's" experience.

Verdict: So, which team would the Wizards rather face? Even the Pacers are a borderline disaster right now, they still have a top 10 player in Paul George plus the experience from last year's deep playoff run not to mention a stellar track record against Washington. Facing Atlanta means home court advantage. That alone makes the Hawks the more desirable foe. At this point, no matter who the Wizards face, the thought of them advancing to the Eastern Conference finals suddenly doesn't seem that like much of a stretch.

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