When the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks last met, the green were a mere three games over .500 and at the bottom of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. This time around, Boston is nine game over .500 and sitting pretty with the season winding down.
Boston, winners of 10 of its last 13 games and 18 of 25 since the All-Star break, enters Wednesday night's game against Atlanta at TD Garden (8:00 p.m. EST; TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI) as one of the hottest teams in basketball. Atlanta has been playing well recently, too, winning three in a row and eight of eleven overall entering its showdown with Boston.
In their only meeting of the season to date, the Celtics escaped with a 79-76 win over the Hawks on Mar. 19. After scoring 12 points in the first quarter and 19 in both the second and third, Boston poured in 29 in the fourth while holding Atlanta to 25 to secure the victory. Rajon Rondo had 10 points, 13 assists and six steals and Ray Allen scored 19 for Boston, which shot a shade under 40 percent. Joe Johnson scored a game-high 25 and Zaza Pachulia totaled 16 points and 13 boards.
Atlanta has a major advantage in the rest category, as it has not played since Saturday when it defeated the Charlotte Bobcats, 116-96. Pachulia had 12 points and 16 boards to lead the Hawks, who had eight players score in double-digits. Johnson had 18 points, Ivan Johnson scored 17 off the bench and both Josh Smith and Jannero Pargo had 15 points.
Boston, which last played on Tuesday night, jumped out to an 11-point first quarter lead against the Miami Heat and outlasted a late surge to claim the 115-107 win, its second over Miami since the beginning of April. Paul Pierce scored 27, Kevin Garnett had 24 points and nine boards and Rondo added 18 points and 15 dimes. Boston shot 60.6 percent.
After their game Wednesday, the Celtics and Hawks will meet one last time on Friday, April 20 at Philips Arena, where the season series could be decided if Boston does not win at home. This matchup could be a playoff preview, as Boston is currently the No. 4 seed in the East while Atlanta is the No. 5 seed.
The Celtics' will head out on a four-game road trip that features their only back-to-back-to-back stretch of the season. However, the tough stretch comes against weaker teams in the Toronto Raptors, the New Jersey Nets and the Bobcats. Boston returns home on April 18 to host the Orlando Magic before playing the Hawks for the final time.