If the Hawks are going to steal a road win, Game 5 is the one

AP Photo/John Bazemore

The Atlanta Hawks have done well to withstand the star power of the Washington Wizards, and on Wednesday night, they might have a shot at a knockout.

In the last two games of the first-round playoff series, the Hawks have looked like the far superior team. In the first two games, the Wizards were in complete control. With the series shifting back to Washington D.C. for Game 5, the Hawks must find a way to win this key road game, and they just might have the right matchups to pull it off.

There’s little doubt John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to get their points in the game, but the Hawks’ strength is that they’ve done whatever they want near the basket. Of the 227 combined points Atlanta scored in the last two games, 104 came in the paint.

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It isn’t just Dwight Howard, though he has given the Hawks plenty in the two victories. In Monday’s Game 4 win, seven Hawks scored in double figures – the most of any team in a single game so far in these playoffs.

This is partially because the Wizards have been without their best big man, Ian Mahinmi, who has missed the entire series with a strained calf. That essentially leaves Marcin Gortat to pick up the load, and while he was lauded early in the series for outplaying Howard, who he used to back up in Orlando, that certainly wasn’t the case in the last two games.

Home teams rarely lose toward the end of the series. It’s likely the Hawks will hold serve at home in Game 6, and it’s all but certain the Wizards would do the same in Washington if the series comes down to Game 7. Therefore, if Atlanta is going to steal this series, they might as well go for it Wednesday night in Game 5.

Who knows – a 6 p.m. tip, a late-arriving crowd and a boatload of momentum just might be what the Hawks need to advance.

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