Advanced metrics don't always tell the story when it comes to what will happen in sports, but they certainly help. As noted in our "handicapping" preview of the upcoming series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics, the 4th-seeded Hawks are seen as the odds-on favorite to advance to the second round, largely on the basis of homecourt advantage.
Do the advanced metrics agree? Well, yes. Yes they do.
The Hawks are "favored" to win the series by at least four of the leading analytics-based services available across the internet. To define favorite in this case, we are simply saying that Atlanta is considered at least 50% likely to win the series by each projection model, though it must be (heavily) noted that the Hawks don't reach even 70% likelihood by any of the sites.
The site with the most favorable projection for Mike Budenholzer's team is FiveThirtyEight, with places a 68% chance that Atlanta will come out of the series with a victory. In contrast, the least encouraging projection comes from NumberFire, which forecasts "only" a 56.8% likelihood of advancement for the Hawks. Somewhere in the middle, ESPN's Basketball Power Index comes in at 62%, TeamRankings indicates 58% and SportsLine (powered by CBS) lands on a 65.1% chance of Atlanta winning the series.
Though individual series projections are not publicly available, there is at least one additional site that prescribes better odds for Atlanta to advance deep in the playoffs than Boston. The good folks at Basketball-Reference projecta 13% chance that Paul Millsap and company will win the Eastern Conference, while that number dips to just 9.7% for Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics.
What does this all mean? In short, not too much.
It is certainly nice to have the numbers and analytics on your side, but as witnessed during last year's playoffs on a number of fronts, series can take on a life of their own if the ball gets rolling downhill in either direction. In the Celtics, the Hawks will be facing a team with very similar make-up, but this time, Atlanta actually has the better "star power", and as we all know, that can matter on the grandest stage.
Oh, and it very much helps to have four of the seven games in Philips Arena.