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Terps, Hoyas, and Wizards

By: Willis

Tim Mahoney/AP

Saturday, March 24
@ 7:00 pm Washington Wizards (11-35) vs Atlanta Hawks (28-20)

Starting Lineup

PG: John Wall vs Jeff Teague

SG: Jordan Crawford vs Kirk Hinrich

SF: Chris Singleton vs Joe Johnson

PF: Trevor Booker vs Josh Smith

C: Nene vs Jason Collins

Why you should watch: Nene faces the Hawks again

The last time I wrote a preview for this game, I assumed Nene would be playing. He didn’t, and that fact (much to my chagrin) rendered my entire piece moot. That being said, this time around Nene will definitely play, and I’m absolutely confident that he’s going to play well.

Against the Pacers front line of big men, Nene faced a bit of a regression. Roy Hibbert and David West caused him some serious trouble, and he finished the game with 6 points, five rebounds, and three turnovers. Whether it was their height or just an off night, Nene was unable to save the Wizards from giving up a 20 point lead they had at halftime. The Hawks front has two guys, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia, who aren’t nearly as talented. Josh Smith is a freak athlete who has a propensity to shoot one too many jumpers that never go in, and Zaza is a chippy Georgian (the country, not the state) that relies on craftiness and gritty play to disrupt his opponent.

For his career, Nene has played the Hawks 10 times and averages 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest. That’s not exactly All-Star caliber play, but hear me out. Most of those games Nene was playing against Al Horford, Atlanta’s currently injured star center. Zaza is, to be blunt, not even remotely close to the same caliber of defender as Horford. Nene is going to chew him up down low, as he happens to have a significant athletic advantage over him. One thing to look out for, however, is if the Hawks decide to try Josh Smith out in defending Nene. If that’s the case, it’s not going to be good for the Wizards; a knock on Nene is his unwillingness to establish his presence in the post, and Josh Smith is powerful enough to deny him quality position altogether.

Underlying Storyline: John Wall and the Wizards Redemption

We all saw John Wall dribble out the clock against the Pacers, and effectively lose the game for the Wizards. He probably grimaced over that for the past two days and is brewing a stew of aggression. I’m assuming Wall is going to be absolutely en fuego against Jeff Teague and Kirk Hinrich, who aren’t much more than traffic cones for him to weave in and out of. Despite averaging about 18 points and 8 assists against the Hawks in six previous meetings, all those meetings have ended in one thing: a loss. In fact, in 14 of the last 15 meetings, the end result has been a loss. I think Wall is going to change that trend tonight, and break through the barrier.

Prediction: Atlanta is pretty darn good, but the Wizards have been playing better and there is no way they lose 14 straight against the Hawks. The bench is going to play a key role in helping the Wizards to a big victory 100-97

Update: Want to thank one of our readers for bringing to our attention that Zaza Pachulia is out of tonight’s game. Jason Collins will presumably be starting in his place. Certainly helps the Wiz Kids chances at a victory against a division foe tonight.

Second Update: Zaza Pachulia is playing but the Wiz Kids are still primed for a victory in this bloggers opinion. Bohlin’s prediction; Wizards: 103 Hawks: 95.

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