Rest is key at this stage of the season, which is why the Boston Celtics will be without three of their best players -- Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus -- when they play the Atlanta Hawks in their third to last game of the regular season at 7 p.m. EST on Friday night at Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA (TV/Radio: ESPN, CSNNE/WEEI).
Now, the Celtics will only be left with two future Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as they try to earn their 38th win of the season. Boston is 37-26 and is coming off a 102-98 win over the Orlando Magic, which gave them their fifth straight Atlantic Division title and guaranteed them the fourth seed or higher heading into the postseason.
Atlanta, meanwhile, is 37-25 and is second in the Southeast Division (behind the Miami Heat). The Hawks have had a successful April, winning six of eight games. Three straight wins against the Bobcats (twice) and the Detroit Pistons started the month, but a loss to the Celtics brought the Hawks' winning streak to an end.
Boston and Atlanta have played twice this season, with the Celtics winning both times. In the last meeting, Kevin Garnett had a double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds and Rajon Rondo had his 19th career triple double (10 points, 10 rebounds, 20 assists) as the Celtics edged the Hawks, 88-86, in overtime. Atlanta outscored Boston 23-14 in the second quarter, but a 27-20 advantage in the third put the C's back in the game, and a close fourth forced overtime. Jeff Teague had 21 points and six assists, Josh Smith scored 20 and had 11 rebounds and Joe Johnson scored 14 for Atlanta.