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Wizards had Hawks' number during regular season ahead of NBA playoffs matchup

Wizards had Hawks' number during regular season ahead of NBA playoffs matchup

Believe it or not, but the No. 5 seed Atlanta Hawks have a winning record this season against each of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference: the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. That is not the case against the fourth-seeded team, the Washington Wizards, whom they will face in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

The Wizards, in fact, have won three straight against Atlanta including a 104-100 victory just a few weeks ago on March 22. Here is a look at those four matchups between the Wizards and Hawks this season...

Oct. 27 in Atlanta
Hawks 114, Wizards 99

The lone Hawks' win against the Wizards was the very first game of the season in Atlanta. That was, of course, a much different time for the Wizards, who were set to begin their season 2-8. John Wall was not in full game shape yet and was limited to just 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting. And Scott Brooks was still trying to learn the strengths and weaknesses of his bench.

That game was a good example of what Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard are capable of down low for Atlanta. Millsap had 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Howard put up 11 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks. The Hawks shot 46.2 percent from three and outrebounded the Wizards 59-48.

The game also featured this play, which surely Wall has not forgotten:

Click here to read game story

Nov. 4 in Washington
Wizards 95, Hawks 92

The Wizards got payback just a week later as the Hawks saw a completely different version of Wall and Beal in Washington's first win of the season. Wall had 21 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals. Beal dropped 28 points including 13-of-14 from the free throw line. The Wizards were much better at defending the three, holding the Hawks to 20 percent.

Howard still got his with 20 points and 12 rebounds, but it was a different story for Millsap. He had a decent 16 points and seven rebounds, but shot just 5-for-14 from the field. That was in part because Markieff Morris did a very good job of locking him down. Morris vs. Millsap should be a huge matchup in the playoff series.

Click here to read game story

Jan. 27 in Atlanta
Wizards 112, Hawks 86

This was the most lopsided of the four games, a 26-point blowout win for the Wizards. All five Wizards starters scored in double-figures, including Wall who had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Otto Porter had a big night with 21 points, 12 rebounds and five threes. The Wizards shot 41.9 percent from three as a team.

This time it was Washington who enjoyed a huge rebounding advantage, 52-41. The Wizards also held the Hawks to 29 percent from three and forced 19 turnovers. Millsap in that game was held to just four points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Click here to read game story

March 22 in Washington
Wizards 104, Hawks 100

Playing without Millsap, the Hawks nearly pulled off the upset in the last matchup between these teams at the Verizon Center. That was in large part due to a 29-point performance by Tim Hardaway, Jr. who has enjoyed a breakout season. Hardaway shot 9-of-16 from the field and hit three threes. Howard had 15 points and 14 rebounds, while point guard Dennis Schroder added 18 points and six assists.

The Wizards again outrebounded the Hawks, this time 54-44, despite Howard's presence. Ian Mahinmi had 10 boards off the bench, Beal had nine, Porter had eight and Morris seven. It will be interesting to see if the Wizards can beat the Hawks on the glass in this series with Howard and Millsap down low.

Click here to read game story

Here is a quick glance at how the two teams have matched up this season head-to-head:

[RELATED: Ian Mahinmi to miss games for Wizards vs. Hawks in 2017 NBA Playoffs]

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards take on Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland Trail Blazers. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Schedule heats up

The Wizards really needed that one on Friday night. Though the Nets, even without Caris LeVert, aren't an easy out, the Wizards wanted to fully take advantage of a soft spot of their schedule. It's tough to lose to the Nets when you consider the road ahead.

The Wizards play seven straight games against teams at .500 or better. That includes a road game against the Raptors, who are tied for the league's best record. They also see the Rockets, the Pelicans twice and play at the Sixers. It all begins Sunday against the Blazers, who are tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA.

Rematch

Most of the Wizards' games this season have been lopsided one way or the other, and usually in the direction they would not prefer. But they have played a few close games and their most entertaining one happened to come against this same Blazers team.

The Wizards and Blazers went to overtime on Oct. 22 in Portland. The Wizards forced the extra period thanks to a three by Bradley Beal, and they won thanks to Otto Porter Jr. blocking Damian Lillard's shot in the closing seconds. 

The Wizards and Blazers have played some classics in recent years. Markieff Morris beat them with a game-winning three two years ago and last season Beal dropped 50 at the Moda Center. The matchup between both teams' star guards seems to bring the best out in everyone.

Howard vs. Nurkic

Much of the focus in this matchup is always on John Wall and Beal vs. Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but there will be a lot of action in the paint with Dwight Howard going up against Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers are one of the best rebounding teams in the game and Nurkic, who pulls in 10.7 per game, is a big reason why. Nurkic also averages 15.5 points.

Howard is coming off his best game as a Wizard. He had 25 points and 17 rebounds against the Nets on Friday night. He was hurt when the teams first met in Portland.

Both are bruisers around the rim who don't stretch the floor with outside shots. It should be a physical battle on Sunday night.

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

Jared Dudley spent one season with the Washington Wizards. The core pieces on the current roster were there during that 2015-16 campaign. Based on that prior experience and a first-hand look Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets forward offered a candid assessment of the 5-10 squad. 

"I’m seeing a team that has been together too long,” Dudley told NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ 115-104 home loss. “They haven’t made progress, so it’s time to change things over there.”

John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter were teammates of Dudley for a full season. Markieff Morris joined the roster at the 2016 trade deadline. Washington failed to make the playoffs that season, but qualified in each of the next two and has reached the postseason in four of the five last years. 

The Wizards did not advance beyond the second round during any of those postseason appearances and lost in the first round last season after a 43-39 regular season. Following a 2-9 start, Washington won three in a row before falling to a scrappy Nets team that lost leading scorer Caris Levert earlier in the week to a gruesome ankle injury.

Dudley started and played 22 minutes in Brooklyn's win. The 12-year veteran's opinion on Washington included suggestions like extended use of a small-ball lineup. 

“I think (they have) good players, but sometimes, good players need different situations. For them, I think that it’s tough the way the league is changing. They play two bigs,” Dudley said about the combination of power forward Markieff Morris and center Dwight Howard. “In this day in age, Otto needs to play more four because he’s tall enough, more spacing.”

Facing a Brooklyn defense that leads the league in opponent mid-range shots, Washington often settled for such looks. The Wizards attempted a season-low 18 three-point attempts. 

The NBA rumor mill continually attempts to plot a new course for the Wizards. New York Times NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves tried to “engage” Washington in trade talks for Jimmy Butler before shipping the All-Star guard to Philadelphia. “But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start,” Stein reported earlier this week. “They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts.”

Dudley sees the logic of moving at least one of those three players.

“I think they’ve had enough time, but they really haven’t (broken) through,” Dudley said. “I can see by the All-Star break or summer time one of these pieces moving. It’s going to be good for them. If it’s John, or Otto or Brad, one of them three, I think their next move is going to be good for both teams."