Just when you thought the Celtics' winning streak couldn't get any more ridiculously dramatic, the C's went and beat the Knicks in the final second on Wednesday night, getting consecutive victory No. 11 via Paul Pierce's game-winner and a nullified Amare Stoudemire shot after the final buzzer. A crazy streak just got even crazier.
On Thursday night, the Celtics will get a rematch with the team that began the 11-game streak, the Atlanta Hawks. They won big last time, on the road no less, and they'll look to dismantle the Hawks again at the TD Garden this time.
The Celtics beat the Hawks 99-76 in Atlanta on Nov. 22. The historical matchup between these two teams has been a streaky one — the Celtics won seven straight regular-season games over their first two years with the Big Three intact (with a seven-game playoff series mixed in), but then the Hawks swept all four last season. The C's are hoping to run off another streak of their own.
Paul Pierce set a new season high on Wednesday night with 32 points on 10-of-18 shooting. His last regular-season game with 30-plus came on Jan. 29, when he dropped 35 in a loss to the Hawks.
Rajon Rondo sprained his ankle late in the Celtics' win Wednesday night. He hopes to play Thursday night, but it's likely that Doc Rivers will rest him until Sunday's tilt with the Indiana Pacers.
Shaquille O'Neal is also unlikely to play, as his sore calf continues to be a nagging problem. Sunday is the most likely return date for Shaq.
The Hawks have injury concerns of their own. Joe Johnson underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow last week and will be out until after New Year's. The Hawks have been starting Maurice Evans in his place.
The Hawks' Mike Bibby has been the best 3-point shooter in the NBA this season. He's made 54 shots from downtown this season, tied for fourth-most in the league, and his 3-point percentage of 54.0 is the best of them all.
Last time the Celtics played the Hawks, they didn't need Rajon Rondo to get a W — they started Nate Robinson at the point, and they told him to run wild and push the offense. It worked — Robinson put up 16 points and 10 assists, the Celtics dominated from the opening tip, and they waltzed to a huge road win. The Celtics will look to replicate that performance by getting aggressive early, creating good shots and taking an early lead. If the Celtics start strong, they'll be in good shape to finish strong.