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Wizards vs. Hawks, NBA playoffs 2017: Schedule, predictions, and news

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Washington prevailed in close series.

NBA: Playoffs-Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

This series could be a heated, seven-game prize fight, or a four-game sweep that we cannot have end soon enough. It’s nearly impossible to figure out the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks, and this playoff series has us stumped trying to predict it.

Washington is the Eastern Conference’s most surprising team. John Wall had his best season yet, playing well enough that he could have been considered for the MVP had it not been a historic race, while Bradley Beal finally stayed healthy from front to back, just about. Between those two and the steadily improving Otto Porter Jr., the Wizards are very deserving of their spot as a top-four seed in the conference.

The Hawks started hot, tumbled off, and then bounced between those two extremes for the rest of the season. Dwight Howard has been mostly ... good!? Paul Millsap is anchoring their defense while providing a wonderful all-around year once again. Dennis Schroder is a mystery, but when he’s on, he easily looks like a top-10 point guard in the league.

The problem is, we’ve seen both teams stray from those identities at times all season. Washington won their division for the first time in decades, and they should be the team favored here. But any circumstance feels possible: Washington or Atlanta taking control in a short series, or both duking it out in an amazing seven games.

KEY MATCHUP: Bradley Beal vs. Thabo Sefolosha

This is a bit of a vague matchup to pick, but hear me out. Sefolosha is perhaps a top-five wing defender in the league, and Beal hasn’t proven himself in a playoff series at all. If Atlanta says, “John Wall can score, but we’re shutting Beal down,” then an ample dose of Sefolosha on Beal is bound to happen.

That might be terrible thinking. Certainly, Wall has shown he’s somewhat of an offense all by himself. But if you stay home on shooters — like Beal and Porter — and dare Wall to drop 35 points by himself, will that work for Washington? Atlanta may be willing to sacrifice some one-on-one scoring if it means Wall can’t cleanly pick apart their defense with his passing out of the pick and roll.

Washington could also beat this by running in transition aggressively. We shall see.

FULL SCHEDULE (All times ET)

Game 1: Wizards 114, Hawks 107 (recap)
Game 2: Wizards 109, Hawks 101 (recap)
Game 3: Hawks 116, Wizards 98 (recap)
Game 4: Hawks 111, Wizards 101 (recap)
Game 5: Wizards 103, Hawks 99 (recap)
Game 6: Wizards 115, Hawks 99 (recap)

PREDICTIONS

SB Nation’s Wizards vs. Hawks predictions

STAFFER WINNING TEAM GAMES SERIES MVP
STAFFER WINNING TEAM GAMES SERIES MVP
Paul Flannery Wizards 7 John Wall
Mike Prada Wizards 5 Bradley Beal
Tom Ziller Wizards 7 Bradley Beal
Whitney Medworth Wizards 6 John Wall
Kristian Winfield Wizards 6 John Wall
Tim Cato Wizards 5 John Wall
Zito Madu Wizards 6 John Wall
Bullets Forever Wizards 5 Bradley Beal
Peachtree Hoops Wizards 5 John Wall