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On the Lookout: Westbrook, Wizards determined to avenge loss to Hawks

May 12, 2021, 5:00 PM ● Miguel Flores

Russell Westbrook and the Wizards gave the Hawks a scare in the fourth quarter but their attempted comeback fell short. Who's going to prevail in their rematch?

Oscar Robertson's triple-double record was supposed to be unbreakable. But Russell Westbrook asked, “Why not?”

Westbrook broke the Big O's record in their last game, but the Washington Wizards still ended up losing against the Atlanta Hawks. Westbrook gets a chance to clinch triple-double No. 183 and take revenge on the Hawks tomorrow on NBA League Pass at 7:00 AM.

Robertson's triple-double record has long lingered as a mythic achievement that almost always gets mentioned when an all-around superstar like LeBron James, Tim Duncan, or Jason Kidd got the occasional trip-dub. 

Then here came Westbrook, who has turned triple-doubles into a lifestyle. Like his off-court brashness and fashion, Westbrook’s triple-doubles represent his non-negotiable chase to be himself. After a slow first month, Westbrook took it up a notch, resulting in his best statistical season since he won MVP in 2017. He's going to average a triple-double for the fourth season with norms of 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. 

Bradley Beal's chase for the scoring title would have been another juicy storyline, but an unfortunate hamstring injury may have put an anticlimactic end to his thrilling battle with Stephen Curry. It would have rivaled the David Robinson versus Shaquille O'Neal showdown for the 1994 scoring title.

On top of all that, the Wizards are not yet assured of a play-in spot as the Chicago Bulls still have a small chance of breaking in. A win over the Hawks, however, will guarantee the Wizards a play-in berth.

The Hawks also need more wins to jockey for a better playoff seeding. Currently, they are tied with the New York Knicks and Miami Heat (38-31) for the fourth seed, which comes with homecourt advantage in the first round. Given that they’ll most likely face either the Heat or the Knicks in the first round, having homecourt advantage could decide a close series.

The Hawks are a totally different team since Nate McMillan took over the head coaching duties during the All-Star break. The Hawks' 22-10 record since the coaching change is the fifth-best in the league in that span.

The lineup has pretty much remained the same, but the Hawks have been much more focused over the last three months. Trae Young used his All-Star snub as fuel to revive the Hawks' season. Clint Capela has flown under-the-radar but has undoubtedly been the Hawks' second best player, putting up monster double-doubles while providing staunch interior defense.

In their meeting Tuesday, the Hawks pulled a strong line from Young (36 points, nine assists) and Capela (10 points, 22 rebounds, four blocks). Look for this pick-and-roll pairing to continue to give the Wizards problems as they don't have the best matchups defensively against either player.

Conversely, Westbrook should be set for another big night with the Hawks having no one to stay in front of him. Without Beal, the one-man Westbrook show is a double must-watch.