Monday, March 27, 2023

NBA Preview: Atlanta Hawks (33-33) at Washington Wizards (31-35)

The Washington Wizards take on the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, for the second time in as many games, in a game with significant implications for the NBA play-in round.

Teams currently ranked eighth and 10th in the Eastern Conference standings clashed on Wednesday between Atlanta and Washington. The No. 8 Hawks defeated the Wizards, who are ranked No. 10 before the play on Thursday.

To break the 114-114 tie, Atlanta went on a 6-1 run in the final 1:38. In a game in which the Hawks rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit, the late cushion preserved the victory.

Trae Young, the Hawks’ leading scorer this season with 26.7 points per game, scored 28 points and had 10 assists in the victory on Wednesday.

Young shot 11-of-14 from the floor, which was his best shooting performance of the season. He also made more than 50% of his attempts for the second game in a row, after making less than 47% in seven previous games.

With the victory on Wednesday, Atlanta moved up to.500 on the season and is now one and a half games behind Miami in the East for the top spot among the four play-in teams. The Hawks lost to the Heat twice in Miami as they began a four-game road trip that concludes with Friday’s game.

In the first of two losses to the Heat, Young only scored eight points.

Through Wednesday’s action, Washington is now two games behind the Hawks and half a game behind ninth-place Toronto heading into Friday’s matchup. Despite splitting their previous two contests with the Raptors, the Wizards have lost three of their last four overall.

In the game on Wednesday, Porzingis scored 43 points, the most of his career.

With one more game on April 5, a victory on Friday would give Washington a 2-1 lead in the series. On February 28, the Wizards defeated the Atlanta Hawks 119-116 without Porzingis in the lineup.

That was Bradley Beal’s first of three games over the last six in which he scored at least 32 points, scoring 37 points in that one.

In the loss on Wednesday, Beal scored 24 points, and Kyle Kuzma added 25 points and 10 rebounds to go along with Porzingis’ career-high performance. Corey Kispert scored 10 points off the bench, more than any other Wizard.

In contrast, in addition to Young, six other Atlanta players reached double figures. John Collins had 14 points and made 4 of 7 3-point attempts, while Dejounte Murray had 17 points.

Murray is averaging 21 focuses per game and is seven days eliminated from posting a vocation best 41 focuses in a success over Portland.

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