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Celtics vs. Hawks preview: Boston eyes statement game in Atlanta

Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics (15-17) square off against Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks (20-11) Saturday night from Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA.

Kevin C. Cox

Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers flipped around the lineup Friday, inserting Brandon Bass and sending 7-foot veteran Jason Collins to the bench.

And it worked like magic, as the Celtics looked more like the team that took the Miami Heat to seven games in last year's Eastern Conference Finals and much less like the team that had lost the last four-consecutive games and eight of their last 10.

Boston will be faced with a much tougher task Saturday, though, when they travel to match up with the No. 3 seeded Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks, who lost Friday to the Detroit Pistons, are following a lose-win-lose pattern after being blown out by the Houston Rockets and running past the New Orleans Hornets.

This Atlanta squad looks drastically different than the one that fell to the Celtics in six games last season. After trading Joe Johnson over the offseason and acquiring Kyle Korver, the Hawks are a more uniform team, with complimentary pieces that make the core of Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague that much more cohesive.

Smith is averaging 16.9 points per game to lead the revamped Hawks. Horford, in his first full season back after missing much of 2011-12, is averaging 16 points and 9.6 rebounds per game as well.

Boston will be hard-pressed to match up with the towering duo as they field Kevin Garnett and Bass.

The Celtics will have the advantage at the small forward and point guard positions, though. Paul Pierce (19.8 points per game) and Rajon Rondo (11.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game) will play across the line from Teague and Korver in a highly competitive contest from the Highlight Factory in Atlanta at 7:00 pm ET, Saturday night.

Next Game

Boston Celtics
@ Atlanta Hawks

Saturday, Jan 5, 2013, 7:00 PM EST
Philips Arena

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