- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2015

Finally, the Washington Wizards have an opponent.

The Atlanta Hawks beat the Brooklyn Nets 111-87 Friday night in Brooklyn to close their first-round series with a 4-2 win. The Wizards and Hawks will begin their Eastern Conference semifinal series Sunday at 1 p.m. in Atlanta.

Consider the Hawks a more potent version of the Toronto Raptors. Top-seeded Atlanta zoomed to 60 wins this season using a spread-out offense and ball movement similar to the San Antonio Spurs, where its head coach, Mike Budenholzer, was an assistant for 17 years. Budenholzer was named Coach of the Year on April 21.

Also like Toronto, the Wizards had trouble with Atlanta in the regular season. They were 1-3 against the Hawks and allowed 107.5 points per game. The one win comes with a grand caveat: The Hawks did not use all five starters, Jeff Teague, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford. The Wizards won, 108-99, on April 12.

Otherwise, the Hawks took care of the Wizards. The only tight game was the Hawks‘ 106-102 win in D.C. in late November. On Jan. 11 in Atlanta, the Wizards lost 120-89. On Feb. 4 in Atlanta, they lost again, that time 105-96. Atlanta shot 27.5 3-pointers per game in the four games against the Wizards.

However, not all remained lollipops and rainbows throughout the season for Atlanta. Like Washington, it had post-all-star break problems. The Hawks were 17-11 after the break, picking up as many losses as they did in the 56 games before all-star weekend.

One key note for Atlanta: In its 22 losses, it was outrebounded 46.2 to 38.4. In its 60 wins, the Hawks were outrebounded by a slight margin, 42.7 to 41.4. The Wizards dominated the Raptors in rebounding, negating their ability to push the ball with younger, more athletic players.

The Wizards have contended all week that it does not matter who they play. They have worked on staying sharp since sweeping their first-round series against the Toronto Raptors, running “dummy” offense, lifting weights and getting in workouts. With this round starting Sunday, Washington will have had a full week between games.

Series schedule

Game 1 – Sun, May 3: Washington at Atlanta, 1 p.m., ABC
Game 2 – Tue., May 5: Washington at Atlanta, 8 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Sat., May 9: Atlanta at Washington, 5 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 – Mon., May 11: Atlanta at Washington, 7 p.m., TNT
x-Game 5 * Wed., May 13: Washington at Atlanta, time TBD, TNT
x-Game 6 * Fri., May 15: Atlanta at Washington, time TBD, ESPN
x-Game 7 * Mon., May 18: Washington at Atlanta, 8 p.m., TNT
x-If necessary

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