Celtics Facing Hefty Challenge in Road Matchup With Hawks

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Celtics Facing Hefty Challenge in Road Matchup With Hawks The Celtics started their Southern road trip in dramatic fashion, winning at Miami on a game-tying layup at the regulation buzzer from Rajon Rondo and a strong effort in overtime. Now, to keep the winning going, they've got an even tougher draw on Friday night.

The Atlanta Hawks, already victorious over the Celtics once this season, host the C's in a battle of Eastern Conference powers. The Celtics are still banged up and tired as they hit the road again; the Hawks are healthy and ready. This one will be a challenge.

When and Where

Friday, Jan. 8, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Philips Arena, Atlanta, Ga.

Records

Celtics (25-8, first place in Atlantic Division, second place in Eastern Conference)
Hawks (22-12, second place in Southeast Division, fourth place in Eastern Conference)

Head to Head

The Celtics entered this season 7-0 against Atlanta during the Big Three era — that streak came to an end this past November. The Hawks took the first meeting between these two teams this season, winning 97-86 on Nov. 13 behind 24 points from Joe Johnson and a double-double from Al Horford. The C's will be looking for revenge this time out.

Skinny

The Hawks aren't going anywhere. They're here to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and they're legitimate contenders to make a run in the postseason. Johnson is finally ready to be the best player on a title contender, and the supporting cast around him is young, energetic and athletic. The Hawks are a well-oiled machine, especially offensively, and they just keep getting better.

Starting Lineups

Celtics
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Rasheed Wallace
Center: Kendrick Perkins

Hawks
Point guard: Mike Bibby
Shooting guard: Joe Johnson
Small forward: Marvin Williams
Power forward: Josh Smith
Center: Al Horford

Stat Sheet

Celtics
The Celtics are 17-4 against Eastern Conference opposition this season.

They have been outrebounded 1,300 to 1,296.

Kendrick Perkins is shooting 64.5 percent from the field, best in the NBA.

Paul Pierce is 46.9 percent from 3-point range, fifth-best in the league.

Rajon Rondo is fourth in the league with 9.6 assists per game.

Ray Allen has averaged 19.0 points and 4.7 rebounds against the Hawks for his career.

Rasheed Wallace is a 29.5 percent 3-point shooter.

Hawks
The Hawks are 13-4 at home this season.

They average 112.7 points per 100 possessions, second-most in the NBA.

Al Horford is shooting .583, fourth-best in the NBA.

Josh Smith is fourth in the NBA with 2.2 blocks per game.

Joe Johnson leads the Hawks with 21.5 points per game.

Mike Bibby averages 16.9 points and 6.3 assists per game against the Celtics in his career.

Marvin Williams has 11.0 points per game against them.

Black and Blue

Paul Pierce (right knee infection) and Rajon Rondo (left hamstring strain) both returned in the Celtics' overtime win over Miami on Wednesday night.

Eddie House sat out Wednesday with flu-like symptoms.

Kevin Garnett has a hyperextended knee. He hopes to return next week.

Hawks

Mike Bibby played hurt in late November with a sprained left ankle.

Al Horford suffered a sprained ankle in Atlanta's preseason finale in Orlando on Oct. 23. He has since returned to the Hawks.

This Date in Celtics History

In 2001, Rick Pitino steps down from his post as president and head coach of the Celtics after four years in Boston. Jim O'Brien is named the C's interim head coach.

Overheard

"Right now I don?t see any needs. I mean, I feel like there?s always a need if you can get a better player than who you have, but there?s nothing with us that?s a glaring weakness. There?s not one specific need that we?re looking to fill. I just feel like we need to get healthy."
–Celtics director of basketball operations Danny Ainge, in the Boston Herald, on the state of the Celtics' roster after Lester Hudson was waived Wednesday

Press Box

Celtics
The Celtics won in overtime.

No help is wanted on the Celtics' roster.

Rasheed Wallace answers the call.

Hawks
Atlanta snapped a losing streak against New Jersey.

The Hawks make a controversial protest.

Mike Woodson won't miss Kevin Garnett.

NBA
All bets are off in New Jersey.

Gilbert Arenas isn't alone.

Danny Granger nears a comeback.

Outlook

The Celtics have yet to figure the Hawks out this season, but they get one shot at it on Friday night and another next week. This is a pivotal swing in the race for Eastern Conference supremacy — either the Hawks make a statement by continuing to set the Celtics in their place, or the C's get revenge and remind the world that they're still the team to beat. The Celtics are trying to beat an elite offensive team without the backbone of their defense, Kevin Garnett, but they still have the talent to take care of business in Atlanta. It just won't be easy.

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