- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 15, 2017

Game 1 is less than 24 hours away. As the Hawks-Wizards opener approaches, let’s run through some leftovers from the last two days:

— After sitting out the final two regular season games because of a bruised quad, John Wall was asked Friday how his body felt. “Perfecto,” he answered. During his best season, Wall has not played well against Atlanta. He’s averaging just 18.5 points on a putrid 32.9 percent from the field (his lowest against any opponent this season) and 25 percent from behind the 3-point line. He feels like he can bully Atlanta point guard guard Dennis Schroder. The question is how well he can finish with Dwight Howard in the game.

— Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said Taurean Prince and Tim Hardaway Jr. will start Sunday. Prince is athletic and active. He has progressively played better since the calendar turned: his minutes have increased, his production has gone up and Budenholzer’s confidence in him has also risen. Prince and Hardaway have put Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore on the bench. Sefolosha has made 42 starts this season. Bazemore has made 64 after signing a $70 million contract in the offseason. But, they will start the series clapping for the starters.

— Don’t call Markieff Morris a stretch four. “Because that’s not my game,” Morris said. “That’s just what the game is now. I just shoot 3s. It’s just what I added to my game. I feel like that’s soft, too. Stretch? They don’t say ‘stretch four’ when they name out the lineup. They say power four, so how can I be labeled as a stretch four?”

Wizards backup center Ian Mahinmi started his individual work after practice in a walking boot. The boot was to protect his strained calf, which will keep him out of the playoffs for at least the first two games. Mahinmi had an MRI exam this week which showed just a strain in the calf. He will be re-evaluated in four or five days. In an informal chat with reporters Friday, Mahinmi was upbeat about the calf after being very concerned when he first injured it.



— In case you haven’t heard, the Wizards missed the playoffs last season when they went 41-41. Wall had to sit out the last five games of the season because of aching knees. “It’s just once you get the feeling, you don’t ever want to miss it again,” Wall said about being in the playoffs for back-to-back seasons, then missing out last season.

— Because of Wall’s hand injury in 2015, Bradley Beal received an opportunity to handle the ball more. The series hinted at what Beal could do in an expanded role. “It kind of got me out there a little bit, allowed me to expose my game a little bit and to be able to create a little bit more,” Beal said. “I guess you could call it an evolution. I feel like I always was able to do it, but I think with John being out I had to do it a little bit more. I was comfortable with it, I’m comfortable where I am now. Just constantly getting better at it.”

— Wall has led the Eastern Conference in total assists in four straight seasons. He is one of only three players in NBA history to accomplish this feat. Rajon Rondo (2008-09 through 2011-12) and Isiah Thomas (1982-83 through 1985-86) are the others.

— Randomness: The Wizards are 4-1 all-time when playing on Easter in the postseason. The Hawks own a 3-4 record when playing on the holiday in the playoffs.

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