Numerical nuggets ahead of the Wizards-Hawks meeting in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Game 1 takes place Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in Atlanta. The top-seeded Hawks won 60 games during the regular season and defeated the Brooklyn Nets 4-2 in the first round. The fifth-seeded Wizards went 46-36 before sweeping No. 4 Toronto 4-0.
Washington reached the Eastern Conference semifinals in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1977-78 and 1978-79. That was also the last time the organization went beyond this round, reaching the NBA Finals both times and claiming the championship in 1978.
Atlanta advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals 15 times before this season, including three straight trips between 2009-11. The Hawks are 0-15 in those appearances. The last time Atlanta reached the conference finals came in 1970 when the Hawks were still part of the Western Conference.
Wizards head coach Randy Wittman spent the first five-plus seasons of his career with the Hawks, which included losing a three-peat of losses in Eastern Conference semifinals between 1986-88.
“That’s 28 years ago, wasn’t it? We had the nemesis Boston Celtics we couldn’t get by," Wittman said.
Manipulate the calendar
During the regular season, this head-to-head battle was an early round TKO. Not only did Atlanta win the season series 3-1 -- the Washington victory came when Atlanta rested all its starters --, but they finished 14 games ahead of the Wizards in the standings. Between Nov. 28 and the end of January, the Southeast Division champs. The locals started 31-15, but finished 15-21.
Since March 7 and including the opening round of the playoffs, the Wizards are 15-9. In that same stretch, the Hawks are 15-12 including Friday's 111-87 series-clinching win over the Nets.
"I think early on they hit their peak like in January," Wall said of the Hawks. "A team like this can get their stride back at any time. I think they got their edge back last night against Brooklyn. They showed things where they are great at. We've shown things where we are great at."
Good John Wall
Not all of his numbers against the Hawks are stellar, but Wall's standard stats in the four regular season games look rather nice: 21.0 points, 9.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds. His shooting percentages certainly went up a notch compared to the regular season.
Wall made shot 44.5 percent overall and 30 percent of his 3-point attempts during the season along with 78.5 percent of his free throws.
Against Atlanta, Wall went 49.2 from the field, 46.7 from beyond the arc and 94.4 from the free throw line, all exceeding his regular season numbers.
Why the difference against the Hawks?
"They do a great job of taking away the paint points," Wall said. "They want to give up a lot of contested threes and mid-range (shots). I have an opportunity in a lot of our sets to be in the corner. I just have to have the confidence to knock down those shots and believe in my ability."
Of course, the Wizards need the speedy guard to avoid settling for jumpers and instead attack the paint relentlessly whether for kick out passes to teammates or attack the basket. Wall took a smaller percentage of his overall shots at the rim (29.5) against Atlanta compared to the overall season (34.8). He also made a much greater percentage (72.2) of those attempts versus a Hawks team that lacks a major size in the frontcourt.