Hawks vs. Wizards: The Fight for the Eastern Conference Finals

Will this surprisingly great series come to an end tonight? Or will Washington live to see another day?

Tonight, the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards will meet up in our nation's capital for what should be a great matchup of Eastern Conference foes. Why should we think otherwise?

Through five games, only one contest has been decided by more than six points. Game 5 was decided by an Al Horford buzzer-beater for crying out loud.

Let's take a look at the matchup as well as the series going forward.

Game 6 Preview

First and foremost, the Hawks are playing for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Wizards are playing for their playoff lives. That doesn't say anything in any stat column known to man, but it does suggest one of two things: (1) the Wizards could come out tight and nervous, or (2) the Wizards could come out on a mission. How the Wizards decide to start the game could set the oh so crucial tone for its entirety.

As for the statistical matchups, there are two key trends to look for in tonight's game.

For the visiting Hawks, watch to see if they're crashing the offensive boards early. If they are rebounding their misses, it could be a long night for the Wizards. In the three Hawks victories in the series they have averaged an offensive rebound percentage of 25.9% with double-digit second chances in each of those three games.

For the Wizards, if they're creating and taking efficient threes that could be telling for the outcome, or at least the competitiveness, of the game. In every game but Game 5, the Wizards have a three-point attempt rate of at least 26.8% with nearly 11 three-point makes per game. In their brutal Game 5 loss, they had a three-point attempt rate under 20%, with a mere four three-pointers made.

I'm not sure if that has something to do with John Wall's inability to shoot the three consistently or not, but it's something to watch out for. But as for Wall himself, he seems to be back at 100% and that's scary for Atlanta. At home, Wall averages a respectable 34% from three while averaging 18.6 points, 10.4 assists and a +/- of 10.4. One player could be the deciding factor in tonight's game and it just might be John Wall.

Game 7 Outlook

If Washington wins and a Game 7 is necessary, it will take place in Atlanta on Monday night. Who do we give the early upper hand to in that case?

Our projections give the Wizards just an 18.7% chance of wining the series in seven. At the same time, we give the Hawks a 35.3% chance to win the series in seven, but they have an 81.3% chance of winning the series either tonight or Monday night. So, while we favor the Hawks to win a possible Game 7, they should take care of business in Game 6 as they're more than 10% likely to take the series in six games than they are in seven.

Either way, we're in for a great ending to what has turned out to be a series full of surprises, good and bad, and exciting moments.