The Atlanta Hawks find themselves in a hole against the Washington Wizards in their Eastern Conference first-round series. While neither game was a blowout, Washington took both games on its home court and will attempt to strengthen its grip on the series today (5:30 p.m. ET Saturday on TNT).
John Wall, the superstar point guard for the Wizards, has been the biggest story of the series thus far. He has dominated both contests as a scorer and passer without much resistance from his covers on Atlanta.
Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder and Paul Millsap have played pretty well too. But they’ve been nothing close to the star power Washington has shown with Wall, Bradley Beal and even Marcin Gortat this series.
Game 3 is essentially a must-win for the Hawks if they want to put up a fight in this series. No team in NBA playoff history has ever won a series after being down three games to none.
Let’s ask some questions that will play a key role in defining Game 3, then this Wizards at Hawks preview will decide its betting predictions and picks for the contest.
Will Marcin Gortat Keep Outplaying Dwight Howard?
Gortat is the Wizards’ fourth or fifth best player. He is a solid center who sets good screens, finishes at the rim pretty well and protects the rim decently. He’s going up against former Orlando Magic teammate Dwight Howard, who is probably the Hawks’ second-best player (after Paul Millsap).
The problem for Atlanta? Gortat is easily outplaying Howard. Gortat is averaging 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game on 66.7 percent shooting, while Howard is putting up 6.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game on 45.5 percent shooting.
Part of the problem is that the Hawks simply are not involving Howard enough. They need to get their athletic center into more pick-and-rolls so he can get involved on lobs and easy looks at the rim.
Gortat has thrown the first two punches in this series. Howard must fight back.
Which Squad Gets its Three-Point Shooting Game Going?
Somehow, these two teams have managed to score an average of 107.8 points per game in this series despite shooting a combined 26-of-95 (27.4 percent) from three-point range. Atlanta is at 25.0 percent and Washington is at 29.8 percent.
Neither of these teams is known for stellar three-point shooting, but they are both better than they have shown so far. In a league becoming more and more dependent on three-point shooting, you can ride hot shooting from the outside to wins pretty easily.
So let’s see if the likes of Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic spark a long-distance attack for Washington or Tim Hardaway Jr., Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder get hot on their home floor in Atlanta.
Can Atlanta Find Another Player to Disrupt John Wall’s Rhythm?
Schroder just is not prepared, both physically and mentally, for a matchup against Wall. Both players are blindingly quick, but Wall is even quicker. He also has a size advantage of three inches and 38 pounds and is too skilled for Schroder’s mediocre defensive skills.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has to be thinking about an adjustment against how he defends Wall, who is averaging 32.0 points and 11.5 assists per game in the series. Maybe Coach Bud can try one of Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore or Tim Hardaway Jr. on Wall.
One difficulty is then finding another player for Schroder to mark on the perimeter. He can’t check Bradley Beal and Otto Porter has probably improved enough to use his size to terrorize Schroder.
But we’ll see what Bud does. If he doesn’t change anything with his defensive strategy on Wall, the All-Star point guard is just going to go off again.
Our Preview’s Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks Game 3 Betting Picks & Predictions
Washington is much less dominant on the road (19-22) than at home (30-11). I don’t think these two teams are that unevenly-matched, either, as I predicted a six-game series win by the Wizards before the playoffs began.
Atlanta should take one or two of its home games with some bounce-back performances by role players (most notably Tim Hardaway Jr.), so I might as well pick the team to take today’s Game 3. Here are this preview’s Game 3 picks and predictions:
- Those sportsbooks that accept American players have the spread around the point I was expecting, favouring the Hawks by 2.5 to 3pts, so it’s not an easy decision here. However, wins are not usually by fewer than three points (free throws often stretch out margins in the final minute), so I’ll recommend betting on Atlanta -2.5pts @ -109 with 5Dimes Sportsbook. Of the others, Bovada and MyBookie come in next best with the same spread for odds of -110.
- The over-under for this game is generally 209.5 or 210 total points to be scored. Bet the over, because both games have surpassed that total despite both teams being cold from three-point range. Each squad’s shooting should regress to the mean and result in a game with decently high scores. Bovada has the lowest (and better) spread, so the pick is to take the over at 209pts with Bovada, even though the odds are a shade worse at -115. Generally it is over 209.5pts for -110 with the other bookies.