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Morning tip: Who has edge in Wizards vs. Hawks?


Morning tip: Who has edge in Wizards vs. Hawks?

ATLANTA -- Throw out what happened in the first round for the Wizards (a surprisingly easy sweep of the Toronto Raptors) and the Atlanta Hawks (a surprisingly difficult six-game series with the Brooklyn Nets).

These are slightly different teams from the regular-season series, won 3-1 by the Hawks, and in a seven-game series it's all about adjustments between games and the more defensive style of play.

Game 1 is today at Phillips Arena (ABC, 1 p.m. ET; Wizards Postgame Live on CSN, approximately 3:30):

  • Frontcourt: In terms of sheer numbers and depth, this isn't much of a contest. The Wizards are superior with Marcin Gortat, Nene, Drew Gooden, Kevin Seraphin, Kris Humphries and Paul Pierce. The Hawks counter with Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Pero Antic, DeMarre Carroll and Mike Scott. Where the Hawks get a leg up, however, is by forcing opponents to adjust to them which makes the Wizards' size (and slower feet) a weakness. But with Pierce playing more at power forward and Gooden's recent emergence, some of that advantage should be neutralized. Advantage, Wizards.

  • Backcourt: Jeff Teague has been better than John Wall head-to-head. Wall, however, is the better player. Kyle Korver is the NBA's best three-point shooter and an underrated defender. Bradley Beal shot good enough from deep to be ninth-best in the regular season. The difference in both backcourts has been consistency for the 82-game season. In the postseason, Wall and Beal have been better. So which duo wins out? Whichever one turns over the ball the least and until the Wizards prove they can be more responsible with it it's difficult to go against the more proven commodity in this key area. Teague will challenge every entry pass, and his wings will support him by denying the ball. Advantage, Hawks. 

  • Reserves: The Hawks have gotten more production because, like with the starters, they fit. The Wizards have more depth and versatility with Otto Porter, Ramon Sessions, Gooden and can resort to Seraphin, Humphries, Rasual Butler and Will Bynum. Having options in a seven-game series when situations change is significant. The Wizards have the pieces. They have to find a way to make it work in concert. Advantage, Wizards

  • Coaches: It's hard to go against Mike Budenholzer of the Hawks. He led the franchise to a record 60 wins in the regular season and was named NBA coach of the year. But Randy Wittman, who won't get anywhere near the respect of the long-time Gregg Popovich disciple, seems to be better in a series. His teams are 7-1 on the road in the postseason including last year despite being the lower seed in each series. Does that experience matter? How can it not? Even

  • Intangibles: Most of the Wizards have been in this situation and have been underdogs. They weren't as happy to get to the second round this year as they were last year. This is a team that tends to play better when it's the underdog vs. the No. 1 seed in the East, which is a good thing.  Plus, they have a swagger with Pierce that wasn't present previously. The Hawks have a perimeter-heavy style that usually has trouble translating the deeper a team like this gets into the postseason. Atlanta is 0-15 in semifinal series. The Wizards haven't been past this round since 1978-79. Advantage, Wizards.

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Nets, as Wizards aim for fourth straight win

Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Nets, as Wizards aim for fourth straight win

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards battle Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, D'Angelo Russell and the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Wizards are on a roll

Say what you will about the opponents they've beaten, but the Wizards are heating up. They have won three straight games with their last one a blowout over the Cavs. This is their longest win streak of the season.

Four in a row would be a nice number. The Wizards only had two win streaks of at least four games last season. One stopped at four and the longest ended at five. 

Nets have their number

Speaking of last season, the Wizards had a heck of a time facing this same Brooklyn team. They lost two of their three meetings in 2017-18 with the lone win coming in overtime. One of their losses was by 35 points.

The Nets, though they haven't won 30 games in each of the past three seasons, are now pushovers. They are well-coached by Kenny Atkinson and are known for trying very hard despite their lack of talent. The Wizards generally have problems with those types of teams. Winning this game could help them prove this is a new year.

Nets have some players now

Brooklyn has been ridiculed in recent years as the Boston Celtics have reaped the benefits of their high draft picks stemming from the infamous Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade. But along the way, the Nets have done a decent job of finding young talent without hitting the lottery.

Caris LeVert was probably the best example of that, though he is now nursing a serious ankle injury and will miss this game. But Brooklyn also has guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who this year is averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from three. They also have Joe Harris, who is putting up 13.4 points on a ridiculous 52.4 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from three. 

Then there's Jarrett Allen, who was acquired using a first round pick the Wizards sent Brooklyn in the Bojan Bogdanovic deal. At just 20 years old, he's turning into a nice young player. This year he's averaging 11.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.


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Austin Rivers wants to interview Jay-Z and Barack Obama; still can't get John Wall on his podcast

USA Today

Austin Rivers wants to interview Jay-Z and Barack Obama; still can't get John Wall on his podcast

Just one episode into his new podcast 'Go Off,' Wizards guard Austin Rivers is already learning plenty about the media world. With plans to become a television analyst when his playing days are done, Rivers is gaining a new appreciation for what it takes to speak at-length without stumbling over his words.

He's also starting to realize one of the biggest pain points for a media member: waiting on guests. Rivers has tried to line up interviews with his teammates and it's been much easier said than done.

Rivers is set to have Dwight Howard on as his first guest, but the original plan was point guard John Wall. Wall, though, has been giving him the runaround.

"That's the hardest thing is getting guests to show up," Rivers said. 

"It's impossible to get John on my podcast. At this point, I just don't expect it anymore. He says he'll do it next week and then the week comes. John has like 15 things to do a day. I don't know what these guys do. I play in the league, too. I know how un-busy my life is outside of this. And I've got a kid. John has a brand to run. He's a different level. Sorry, you can see the frustration on my face with not getting John on my podcast, man."

Rivers hopes to have many of his teammates on. He mentioned Kelly Oubre Jr. and how an interview with Oubre "might be a little out there." He also gave a hint about what his conversation with Howard will be like.

"I'm definitely gonna have some interesting topics to bring up with Dwight. I told him 'listen, you might want to check with your publicist before coming on my podcast.' We only talk about real conversations on here," Rivers said.

Rivers says he plans to start with fellow NBA players and then work in special episodes with guests outside of the league and even outside of basketball. He hopes to record an episode with financial advisors to talk about money and investments. He wants to take a deep dive into the AAU circuit and how it can be fixed.

Eventually, Rivers wants to aim very high with his guests. He gave a list of his dream interviews and there are some big names.

"Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade. Dwyane Wade is my favorite player. I'm gonna get Dwyane Wade on my podcast, for sure. I'm gonna go ahead and put that out there," Rivers said.

"Off-the-court, I would love to get Denzel Washington on there. That would be my dream... I want to do a podcast with me and my dad and Jaden Smith and Will Smith. I think that would be really dope, talking about parent-to-son success and how he related to his son to have a work ethic and how my dad did it to me."

Rivers went even higher. He wants to interview a president.

"I guess if I could go the highest, I would go Jay-Z or [Barack] Obama. But let's be realistic, here," Rivers said.

"[Interviewing Obama] would be incredible, bro. I would be so nervous. I'm not there yet, I'll be honest. I need like six or seven or eight more podcasts before I can get Obama on there because I'm gonna be stuttering. I can't do it with Obama yet. I don't know if I could handle Denzel right now."