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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 7:00 AM

It was definitely a bad break that the Atlanta Hawks had to come back on such short rest to open their second round series Sunday with the very well-rested Washington Wizards. The league shouldn’t be THAT beholden to television interests that any playoff team goes on a “Friday Night-Sunday afternoon” sequence. That being said…it’s Atlanta’s own darned fault for taking so long to dispatch with lowly Brooklyn!

Washington was rewarded for sweeping Toronto, and took advantage of that reward with a 104-98 upset victory in Game One.

This is our first look at the matchup…which means we need to run JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats to set the tone for our coverage. Remember, these are from the regular season only…

 

Offensive Efficiency

Washington: 101.8 per 100 possessions (ranked #19 in the NBA)

Atlanta: 106.2 per 100 possessions (ranked #6 in the NBA)

Big edge to Atlanta…who successfully incorporated San Antonio’s “spread the wealth” offense to Eastern Conference basketball. The East is so weak though that it may have created some illusions about Atlanta’s real championship potential! The Hawks aren’t nearly as dominant so far in the playoffs as that ranking would have suggested. Opponents defend with more passion in the playoffs. It’s still likely that Atlanta will have the more efficient offense once they get their legs back. The edge probably won’t be as big as it seems above.

 

Defensive Efficiency

Washington: 100.0 per 100 possessions (ranked #5 in the NBA)

Atlanta: 100.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #7 in the NBA)

Two very good defenses. The media continues to overlook how well Washington plays on this side of the ball. The Wiz sure used defense to take control of Game One in the second half. Possibly a wash…or the fact that Washington sandbagged much of the year could be suggesting that they’re even better than it seems when it counts on this side of the floor.

 

Pace Ranking

Washington: #16

Atlanta: #15

Both teams were right at league average. Neither will be able to take the other out of its comfort zone tempo-wise. Atlanta will continue to pass the ball around hoping for good looks on treys. Washington will continue looking for decent two-point jumpers or openings for quick guards to dart toward the basket.  

 

Against the Spread

Washington: 33-46-2

Atlanta: 50-30-2

This is pretty amazing. Washington was one of the most overrated teams in the NBA this season because they were biding their time before the playoffs. In the postseason? Pure gold! Atlanta was a printing press during the regular season because it took forever for the markets to believe in them. In the playoffs? Dog food! The evidence so far suggests the market has overreacted to the regular season.

Let’s see how that phenomenon may have manifested itself in the Game One boxscore…

 

GAME ONE STATS

Washington 104, Atlanta 98

Shooting Pct: Washington 42%, Atlanta 38%

Three-Pointers: Washington 9/25, Atlanta 13/38

Free Throws: Washington 19/22, Atlanta 11/14

Rebounds: Washington 54, Atlanta 52

Turnovers: Washington 6, Atlanta 11

Vegas Line: Atlanta by 5.5, total of 197.5

You see the influence of that Washington defense. The Hawks shot poorly, settling way too often for long three-pointers (25 misses!) because they couldn’t get anything inside. Washington didn’t exactly shoot lights out. But, they earned more trips to the free throw line (+8 points) and only turned the ball over six times. Basically, Washington continued doing what worked so well vs. Toronto in the first round. Tired Atlanta continued to look more like a generic #4 or #5 seed rather than a #1 seed.

Can Atlanta get things moving in the right direction in the quick rematch? The market sure thinks so…

 

Tuesday’s Game Two Line: Atlanta by 6.5, total of 198

The line has shot up a point from the Game One closer because of the must-win scenario for the Hawks. Oddsmakers know that everyone loves backing a home favorite off a loss…particularly after a series opener. The problem with that strategy here is that there’s NO evidence in the playoffs that Atlanta should be priced anywhere near that! You could make a case that the teams are close to even, meaning Atlanta by 3 would make more sense at home. Heck, pure numbers suggest Washington is now the better team.

JIM HURLEY is working very closely with his on-site sources here. If Washington is going to take a breather while Atlanta brings everything to the table…then Atlanta could be the play. But…if we’re hearing that Washington is still focused and fresh (as they were in Game Two in Toronto after winning the opener), then the Wizards are a steal at this high price.

You can purchase the final word for Tuesday (this game plus Game Two of Grizzlies/Warriors) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Please ask about combination packages that include Major League Baseball and the rest of the Triple Crown horse races.

The busy sports week continues tomorrow…here’s what’s ahead in the NOTEBOOK…

Wednesday: LA Clippers at Houston series notes (and Game One Stats)

Thursday: MLB Notes (no basketball on the schedule)

Friday: Cleveland at Chicago Game Three Preview

Saturday: Golden State at Memphis Game Three Preview

Sunday: Houston at LA Clippers Game Four Preview

Monday: Atlanta at Washington Game Four Preview

Next week, we’ll tackle the biggest game every night as the second round moves toward its conclusion. Hopefully more thrillers are on the way! We can assure you that…with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK…more BIG, JUICY WINNERS are on the way!

 

Be sure to follow:

Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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