The Eastern Conference Playoffs matchup between the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks should be an exciting one. Here are the five keys to the series.
In one of the eight first-round series in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, we will have a matchup between Southeast Division rivals in the No. 4 Washington Wizards (49-33) and the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks (43-39). Washington won its first division title since 1979 and Atlanta made its Eastern Conference best 10th straight playoff appearance.
Washington will be the favorite in the series, as the Wizards won the regular season series 3-1, including three in a row. However, the last time these two rivals met in the NBA Playoffs, Atlanta advance to its first Eastern Conference Finals in six games.
This should be a tight, feisty series and the winner of this first-round matchup could be a threat to make the Eastern Conference Finals should that team knock of the winner of the Boston Celtics/Chicago Bulls series in round two.
Here are the five keys to this No. 4 vs. No. 5 series between the Wizards and the Hawks.
5. Can Otto Porter Jr. be the series’ x-factor?
The Hawks may have a wide array of solid wing defenders to throw at Washington in the form of Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince and Thabo Sefolosha. However, are we sure any of them can stop Wizards wing Otto Porter Jr. should he get hot from three?
Porter was the former No. 3 overall pick by the Wizards in the 2013 NBA Draft out of Georgetown University. After a dismal first two years in the league, Porter has carved out an important starting role for the Wizards at small forward.
He has helped give the Wizards tremendous balance one-two-three, joining point guard John Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal as a fierce starting trio. Porter has improved significantly as a spot-up shooter in year four in the NBA. He made 43.4 percent of his three-point attempts in 2016-17, setting a career high and besting his career average of 38.9 percent from distance.
In short, Atlanta may be a top-tier defensive team, but if Porter is making his three-pointers, there’s really no chance that the Hawks can slow down the Wizards attack. Wall will get his points, but Atlanta can’t let Porter beat the Hawks senseless with a barrage of threes. They will have to live with Beal going off and not Porter if they want any hope at advancing to the Conference Semifinals.