After the Atlanta Hawks cruised past the Charlotte Hornets for their 43rd victory on Tuesday night, they reserved a first round date with the Washington Wizards. The Wizards have been a lock for the fourth seed for a few days and waiting to see who will be visiting Washington D.C. this Sunday.

Washington has had an incredible season since starting the season off 2-8. They have a revamped bench, and John Wall and Bradley Beal have taken that next step many fans have expected. They’ve been questionable lately, especially on the defensive end, but they absolutely have the potential to participate in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Atlanta has been what most thought they would be; a solid all-around team but maybe not enough talent to make it past the first round. They’ve played well over the last couple weeks, including two impressive wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Hawks can keep up this level of play, we may just see them in the conference semi-finals.

The Wizards and Hawks actually met in the 2015 playoffs in the conference semi-finals. The Hawks were the team to beat at the time as they were playing some incredibly inspiring basketball on both ends of the floor. It had been the second year in a row that Washington had turned heads after sweeping the Toronto Raptors in the first round.

The Hawks ultimately won the series in six games but it was by no means easy. After John Wall fractured his hand in game one, Paul Pierce and Bradley Beal led the Wizards to an impressive game three win in D.C. However, the Hawks just had too much firepower and the lack of overall talent eventually showed for Washington.

Let’s not forget Paul Pierce’s incredible game-winner in game three…

Or Nene’s missed box-out that led to Al Horford winning game five…

It was little things that kept Washington from winning the series but let’s face it, the Hawks were simply a better team at the time. That time has come and gone.

Washington has all-around talent that will overwhelm the Atlanta Hawks. John Wall is a bad match-up for Dennis Schroder and the Hawks have a history of not being able to contain Bradley Beal. It will be no different in this series.

Exclude the two star guards and there’s still plenty of talent that will be utilized. Otto Porter has solidified himself as a top three-point shooter in the NBA, Markieff Morris is a bad match-up for Paul Millsap, and Marcin Gortat always plays well in the postseason. That’s just the starters.

The bench as mentioned above, is much improved. The team traded for Bojan Bogdanovic, signed Brandon Jennings, and perhaps most importantly, Ian Mahinmi got healthy. It will be tough to see Washington’s rotation shrink because there are other guys that could most definitely contribute — most notably Tomas Satoransky and Jason Smith.

This Hawks team isn’t so bad either. Dennis Schroder is a really sneaky point guard and should Washington continue to play the type of defense they have since the All-Star break, Schroder could seriously carve up the Wizards. Tim Hardaway Jr. has become a great scorer, especially when utilizing off-ball screens (much like Kyle Korver did), and Kent Bazemore will most likely be presented the opportunity to show his defensive skillset to the Wizards backcourt.

Paul Millsap is still an All-Star. He has the potential to take over a series. Markieff had proven to be a bad match-up for him in the regular season but this is the playoffs — the Wizards are all too familiar with mirror occurrences. Don’t be surprised to see Paul Millsap play some terrific basketball. He has the offensive skillset that most power forwards can’t deal with and has the quick hands to bother the opposition in defense.

Much like the Wizards, the Hawks improved their bench too. They acquired Mike Dunleavy Jr. from the Cavaliers and signed Jose Calderon. The Hawks have some other impressive pieces such as Ersan Ilyasova, Thabo Sefolosha, Kris Humphries, and Mike Muscala.

From top-to-bottom, the Hawks have a solid team that has the potential to upset Washington in the first round — but will they?

Prediction: Wizards in 5

As stated before, this Hawks team is different. So are the Wizards. However one team has gotten better and one team has gotten worse…take a guess at which is which.

The matter of the fact is that if the Wizards can play even average defense, Atlanta doesn’t stand much of a chance. And even then, Washington just has too much firepower on offense from top-to-bottom. With the Wizards known to step up their game in the playoffs, expect this year to be no different.

In case you missed it, John wants to see the Hawks in the first round…

An irritated John Wall is a bad John Wall…for the opposition.

The Hawks absolutely have the talent to compete but like every top-4 team in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards are overwhelmingly better any bottom-4 team, including the Atlanta Hawks.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see anything between a sweep and a ‘Wiz in 6′.

The Hawks have a talented group and everyone wants to see a good ol’ upset, but fans have to realize that the Washington Wizards are going to be too much for the Atlanta Hawks.

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