Earlier today, we previewed all three of Saturday's Game 7's, including the Hawks at the Pacers, which tips at 5:30 p.m. Now we look at that Eastern Conference first-round matchup from a rooting perspective as the Washington Wizards await the winner. The second round series opens Monday in either Indianapolis or Washington.
Why you should root for the Pacers
*Have you been watching them lately? Indiana hasn't looked like a No. 1 seed in this series, or the last two months. Washington rolled Indiana late in the regular season and is now playing its best ball of the season. John Wall and Bradley Beal have a larger edge against Indiana's backcourt than Atlanta's.
*Roy Hibbert, yikes. It would be easy to say the matchup against Atlanta's perimeter big men has thrown the 7-foot-2 center for a loop. Truth is the former Hoya has been bumbling around for a bit now. It's his presence in the middle that's keeps limits Wall's penetration opportunities. If Hibbert can't turn this around and quick, the Wizards will have a major size advantage.
*The Ric Flair philosophy: To be the best you've got to beat the best. Indiana is the No. 1 seed, after all.
Why you should root against the Pacers
*They are the No. 1 seed for a reason. That reason is at one point the Pacers were scary good. Even late in the regular season they defeated Oklahoma City. Paul George is one of the 10 best players in the league and David West is a tone-setting man up front. Don't let the sleeping giant wake.
*Indiana held Washington to its top two lowest scoring games of the season.
* Entering the regular season series finale back in March, the Wizards had lost 11 of 12 to the Pacers. Sometimes matchups are just not cool. Historically, this has been a brutal one for Washington.
Why you should root for the Hawks
*This matchup automatically gives the Wizards homecourt advantage. Even though they haven't exactly been dominant at the Verizon Center this year - split two games last series with the Bulls while winning all three in Chicago - take the Game 7 advantage.
*Washington went 3-1 versus Atlanta this season thanks in part to Wall and Gortat both averaging double-double in the four games. The Wall versus Jeff Teague matchup is intriguing. The Gortat versus any center on Atlanta's roster, including Gortat's doppelganger Pero Antic, easily favors the Wizards
*Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Teague play at or near an All-Star level. It's what comes after that trio that makes this a potentially strong matchup for Washington. The Wizards would have a strong advantage inside even with Millsap.
Why you should root against the Hawks
* Teague has raised his game up a notch or two during the postseason. Millsap is a power player with more than enough perimeter touch. The Hawks have enough frontcourt shooters to turn Gortat into a defensive liability. Unlike last round, nobody will ask whether Atlanta has players that can carry a team offensively.
* Korver led the NBA in 3-point shooting, has a history of taking down the Wizards and sat out two of three losses to Washington this season. This assignment would be all Trevor Ariza defensively, but the Hawks do a good job of getting Korver open looks regardless.
*The Wizards just did rather nicely in the opening round as the perceived underdog. Why mess with success especially after a regular season in which several of their suspect performances came in just such a favorite role.