Three things to watch for: Atlanta Hawks vs. Washington Wizards

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1. John Wall setting the pace
The Atlanta Hawks are a Top 4 defensive team in the NBA and they’ve had some ability to slow Wall this season. During the middle part of the year, Wall had games in which he was solid from 3-point range, shot well from the field, and demonstrated his superior passing ability. But in their last matchup he was spotty, and that’s saying something considering how well Wall finished the season during the last 15 games or so.

The Wizards are a better team than Atlanta, but there’s some real speed bumps to be had for Washington. Wall playing smooth, and to the level we saw him elevate to this year as a top passer in the NBA should help steady Wizards fans. It’s Washington — and it’s the playoffs — so smooth would be nice.

2. The Hawks defense
As mentioned above, it may surprise some folks that the Hawks are the fourth-best defense in the NBA in terms of defensive rating. While Washington has a Top 10 offense, things get weird in the playoffs. Things slow down. They speed up. Gameplans are exceedingly in-depth, and then change quickly from game-to-game.

Atlanta’s only chance of making this a series is to stun Washington’s attack. The Hawks are one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA, so providing space for themselves to operate carefully on that end of the floor is going to come through their defensive effort first and foremost.

3. Paul Millsap vs. Washington’s offensive rebounders
The Wizards are a middling offensive rebounding team, and Paul Millsap is one of the best players in this series at pulling down contested rebounds. Then again, so is Marcin Gortat, so watching Millsap tackle him, Otto Porter, and Markieff Morris down low should be critical.

Ian Mahnimi is out to start the series with a calf strain, and offensive chances will be important for a team like Atlanta who already is prone to struggle scoring. Dwight Howard taking up space and battling down low should be a factor here as well, obviously. Look for rebounds to help set the tone for leads here.

Robin Lopez and T.J. Warren exchange contact, heated words (video)

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Robin Lopez whacked T.J. Warren in the head while chasing an offensive rebound. Warren didn’t like that, so he ran to the opposite end of the court and shoved Lopez to the floor. A heated confrontation ensued, though it didn’t escalate beyond yelling.

Warren received a flagrant foul, and Lopez was hit with a technical in the Suns’ 113-105 win over the Bulls.

Lakers blow 5-on-1 fastbreak (video)

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Corey Brewer is better at finishing fastbreaks than leading them.

Nice defense by Emmanuel Mudiay, too.

But at least the Lakers won.

Did Reggie Jackson distract Jimmy Butler into missing game-tying free throw? (video)

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With the Timberwolves trailing the Pistons by three and 6.2 seconds left, Jimmy Butler drew a foul on a 3-pointer.

Butler made the first two free throws then, just before he got the ball for the third, Reggie Jackson interrupted to talk to Stanley Johnson, who was in rebounding position. Butler missed the free throw, and Detroit won 100-97 after an intentional foul.

Butler said Jackson didn’t affect him, but Butler’s side eye during the delay at least appeared to speak loudly.

Bulls’ Kris Dunn dunks on T.J. Warren after savvy/explosive halfcourt drive (video)

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Kris Dunn had a nice weekend – 39 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds as the Bulls beat the Hornets and lost to the Suns – punctuated by this dunk in Chicago’s 113-105 loss to the Suns last night.

T.J. Warren paid the price for Tyler Ulis overplaying a Robin Lopez screen Dunn cleverly never used.