The Washington Wizards face the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals with Game 1 critical for both teams to take the early advantage.
Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta.
When: Sunday May 3, 18:00 (UK time)
The Hawks came through a tough opening round test against the Brooklyn Nets, as despite taking an early 2-0 lead in the series their rivals fought back and put them under pressure.
However, their superior team basketball and depth made the difference in the end as they prevailed and avoided the embarrassment of being one of few No.1 seeds to be eliminated in the first round.
Jeff Teague, Al Horford, Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll all played crucial roles in the series, and they will again need to be at their best to overcome a Wizards team which clicked into place last time out.
Washington were expected to engage in a real battle with the Toronto Raptors in their opening round clash, but they walked away with a series sweep after completely shutting their rivals out.
Paul Pierce was a vital part in that success as he played the Raptors brilliantly both on and off the court, but it won’t work again against Mike Budenholzer’s men who are focused on emerging from the East.
The NBA Coach of the Year will have to formulate a plan to limit both John Wall and Bradley Beal with the latter in particular finding his rhythm in the last series after struggling down the stretch of the regular season.
However, it remains to be seen if Washington, who were largely inconsistent this year, can bring their best basketball to the table over what should be a tough and long series.
If they can’t, then the Hawks will make them pay. If they can, then they could well continue to gather momentum en route to making the Conference finals.
Prediction: Hawks have been too strong at home all year and that trend will continue. Hawks win.