After coming off a much needed win on Thursday night, the Boston Celtics (52-22) will travel East to face the surging Atlanta Hawks (43-32).

Currently, the Atlanta Hawks have a stronghold on the number 5 spot in the Eastern Conference Playoff Race. The Celtics are just .5 games ahead of the Miami Heat for the number 2 spot. Atlanta will be looking to keep the momentum going as Boston will have major incentive in this game.

Rajon RondoIn their last game on Thursday, the Boston Celtics looked very strong in a 107-97 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. This is just the Celtics 2nd win in 5 games as they took control of the game in the second half. Kevin Garnett specifically, was in the zone from the outside in the 2nd half.. The Celtics were led by Rajon Rondo with 22 points and 14 assists. Kevin Garnett had a big game with 20 points and 9 rebounds on 9 of 12 shooting from the field. From watching the game, KG looked as confident as I had seen him look in the last couple of years offensively.

In the Hawks last game, they defeated a tough Orlando Magic team, 85-82. The Hawks have played well lately, winning 3 straight. The Hawks defense managed to hold Dwight Howard to just 4 of 13 from the field. Leading the Hawks was Josh Smith with 26 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Joe Johnson added 18 points.

This should be an interesting Friday night matchup. The Celtics are the better team and need this game while the Hawks are playing at home and are playing well. Boston is trying to get past the Kendrick Perkins trade and resume their consistent winning ways.


It's the headband

Power forward and Georgia native Josh Smith has been stepping his game up lately. Smith isn't in the elite but he's a consistent contributor that can bring a lot of energy for the Hawks. Occasionally he looks out of control, but lately he's been steady as a rock. On the season, Smith averages 16.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game on the season.

In his last 4 games Smith has been playing especially well which is partially why the Hawks have been winning. He's averaged 23.5 points and 10 rebounds per game in that time. In two separate games, Smith has an 18 rebound performance and a 33 point performance, both which were on the road. Look for a big game from Josh Smith. Glen "Big Baby" Davis can't match up with Smith's level of athleticism.

Flashback

Atlanta HawksThe Hawks need some contributions from players other then Al Horford, Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith. Kirk Hinrich and Jamal Crawford have both proven in the past that they can win games with the former teams. Hinrich is coming off of a poor 5 point and 5 assist performance against Orlando. This is a player that scored 16 plus points per game for Chicago.

Hinrich has been inconsistent, scoring in double figures in 4 out of his last 10 games. He's the type of player that will score 16 points against Philly and come up scoreless against Chicago. More consistency is needed. Hinrich averages 9.3 points per game for the Hawks and one stat that really sticks out is that he's shooting 53.9% from the free throw line for Atlanta. This is an 81.1% career free throw shooter! Kirk Hinrich needs to find his place on this team or should get less playing time.

Jamal Crawford has been better for the Hawks offensively than Hinrich (14 points per game) but he's lacking the consistency that he's shown in the past also. Crawford has scored in double figures in 4 out of his last 10 games also. The shooting accuracy just isn't there. In his last 7 games, Crawford is shooting just 20 of 59 from the field. The Hawks have 3 talented stars but need to find a way to incorporate Crawford or Hinrich into the offense because these are two players that have been capable of playing big in the past.

Big Baby, Big Numbers

Glen "Big Baby" Davis has played very strong as of late. He looked very confident and agile (believe it or not) on the offensive end against San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs had no answer for him. In his last two games, Davis is averaging 18 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 15 of 23 from the field. Expect Glen Davis to have a good game against the Hawks. There is a void without Kendrick Perkins but Davis looks like he can easily fill that void if he continues to keep his confidence level up.

Key To Celtics Success

We know that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are going to be consistent offensive options as they've have been for their entire careers. Point guard Rajon Rondo has proven that he can be brilliant at times. His court awareness, level of effort, and passing ability is second to none but he's hot and cold when it comes to offense. Luckily for the Celtics in the last 2 games, Rondo is hot. In his last 2 games, Rondo is averaging 22 points, 11 assists, and 4.5 rebounds. In these two games he's also shooting 20 of 33 from the field.

Rondo has picked the right time to get hot because the Hawks have been tough as of late. Look for Rondo to pick it up offensively. He's capable of so much more. Kevin Garnett is a stable figure on the Celtics team. he looked spectacular shooting from the outside against San Antonio. As I stated earlier, Garnett had 20 points and 9 rebounds while being nearly flawless at 9 of 12 from the field.(and they weren't dunks and layups).

What To Look For

Atlanta is not getting much respect from the NBA odds makers being a 1.5 point underdog. Boston hasn't played well since the Kendrick Perkins trade and although they beat San Antonio, the Spurs were banged up and were leading for a decent portion of the game. Atlanta is hot at the moment and they have the young fresh legs. This will be a close game. Look for the Hawks to make it 4 straight wins.

Pick-  Atlanta