AFRO Sports Sunday4-001

The Washington Wizards received quite the consolation prize after sweeping the Toronto Raptors in the first round: a series date with the Eastern Conference’s top-ranked team, the Atlanta Hawks.

Washington dusted off the Raptors on April 26 in a 125-94 rout in front of a raucous Verizon Center. Washington’s playoff history isn’t extensive, so their domination of the Raptors in the opening round ranks as one of the franchise’s best moments. The AFRO recaps the series that was and looks at the one that lies ahead for the Washington Wizards.

April 26: Wizards Finish Off Raptors in 125-94 Rout

Up three games to none in the series with a wounded and desperate Raptors team at their mercy, it would have been easy for the Wizards to play down to their comfort level. But with a chance for some extra rest and a hungry crowd cheering their every move, Washington wasted no time jumping out to an early lead and sending a message. The Wizards led 36-22 after the first quarter and piled the lead up to 102-70 after three quarters. What should have been the strongest performance of the season for a Raptors team facing elimination, became the Wizards’ finest moment.

Washington connected on a franchise playoff-high 15 three-pointers while completing the club’s first ever playoff sweep. Six players scored in double figures and John Wall recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists. Marcin Gortat added 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists while Bradley Beal supplied 23 points. Beal’s desperation three-pointer in the middle of the third quarter caromed in as the shot clock expired, putting Washington up by 22 points and driving home the idea that it was simply Washington’s night.

The rout, coupled with Atlanta’s extended first-round series with Brooklyn, gave Washington a week’s worth of rest heading into the battle with the 60-win Hawks. Atlanta has shown some vulnerability over the last few months, going just 11-10 in their last 21 games. Washington, however, has been at their best over the last few weeks, as displayed in their series with Toronto. The Hawks’ ability to space the floor with capable shooters at every position will be a challenge for the Wizards, but team defense has been Washington’s strength over the last two playoff appearances.

Washington doesn’t have one definitive edge against Atlanta as the series kicks off on May 3, but they’ve been arguably the most impressive team in the East so far in the postseason. If the Wizards can continue to play good team basketball and Wall continues to control games like he did against Toronto, Washington could deliver an upset with the Hawks continuously showing signs of weakness.