Atlanta Hawks to play Boston Celtics Friday night


The Atlanta Hawks will play one of their oldest rivals for the third time this season, as they take on the Boston Celtics at 7:30 PM ET at the TD Garden Friday night.

The Atlanta Hawks ended their three-game slide Wednesday night by defeating the hapless Philadelphia 76ers at home, 127-106. It just so happens that their next opponent is one of the club’s most historic rivals in the Boston Celtics.

This will be the third time the Atlanta Hawks have played the Boston Celtics this season. Boston beat Atlanta at the TD Garden on Friday, November 13th, 106-93. Atlanta then returned the favor knocking off Boston on November 24th, 121-97, the same night that the Atlanta Hawks organization retired Dikembe Mutombo’s No. 55 jersey.

-= Related: Atlanta Hawks handle Philadelphia 76ers, 127-106 =-

Entering Friday night’s matchup at the Garden, both teams briefly find themselves on the outside looking in at an Eastern Conference Playoff spot, despite having above-.500 records. Atlanta is 9th at 15-12 because of the Detroit Pistons temporarily hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Hawks for the 8th seed. Boston is half a game back of Atlanta at 14-12.

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With the Eastern Conference so tightly packed, any win and every loss has significant impact on the East’s standings. Even in 10th place, the Boston Celtics are only four games back of first place Cleveland, who are 17-7 on the year.

Neither the Atlanta Hawks or the Boston Celtics have a decided advantage in home/road splits. Atlanta is at .500 at 6-6 away from Philips Arena, while Boston is only a game above .500 at home with a 7-6 record at the TD Garden. Both teams are two games above .500 in conference games. The Atlanta Hawks are 8-6 against the East, while the Celtics 10-8. These rivals are also both 5-5 in their last 10 games.

Besides interesting things always happening in this head-to-head series, this is really the first time in a while that both the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics are evenly matched. Though Boston is the more physical team and Atlanta is more finesse, they rarely are neck and neck in the Eastern Conference standings, with one usually being significantly better than their familiar foe.

Next: Atlanta Hawks: Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Dec. 17

For Atlanta to win on Friday night, they will have to compete on the glass and hope that their strong shooting performance on Wednesday night against the 76ers holds up. Boston, like Atlanta, is well-coached basketball team and will look to make slight adjustments throughout the game. Atlanta needs to gain momentum and beating the Celtics in the Garden Friday night would certainly do that. Go Hawks!