The Boston Celtics just captured their fifth straight Atlantic Division crown and will try to stay on track as the playoffs approach tonight on the road against the Atlanta Hawks.
Boston and Atlanta are both headed to the postseason and tonight's showdown at Philips Arena could be a possible playoff preview. The Celtics are seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference and the Hawks are fifth -- one game ahead of the Orlando Magic.
The Celtics are coming off their seventh win in nine tries, a 102-98 triumph versus the Magic in Beantown on Wednesday. Paul Pierce had 29 points and 14 assists, while Avery Bradley had 23 points and Brandon Bass added 21 for Boston, which clinched the 30th division title in franchise history.
"It's a good accomplishment I guess, but all we care about around here is a championship banner," Pierce said about winning the division.
Rajon Rondo did not play in the win due to a sore lower back. He had handed out 10-plus assists in 23 straight games. Rondo's streak is the longest such streak since John Stockton posted 29 straight games from Jan. 25-March 30, 1992. Rondo and sharpshooter Ray Allen are expected to miss tonight's game.
After visiting the Hawks, Boston will close out the regular season with two games at home versus Miami and Milwaukee. The Celtics are 15-17 on the road.
Atlanta will resume a five-game homestand Friday and opened the residency with Wednesday's 116-84 victory versus the Detroit Pistons.
Tracy McGrady led six Hawks in double figures with 17 points, Ivan Johnson had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Josh Smith added 12 points and nine boards and Joe Johnson netted 13 for Atlanta, which has won two in a row and six of eight.
"Considering that we're playing for something, it means a lot," McGrady said of the win. "...We're fighting for home-court advantage, that's meaningful itself."
The Hawks are 20-9 as the host and will also welcome the Knicks, Clippers and Mavericks to the Peach State. They lost at Boston last Wednesday in an 88-86 overtime decision and will try to avoid being swept in this series since losing all four meetings in 2008-09.
Boston has won 11 of 16 meetings with the Hawks. These two teams have split the last 10 games at Atlanta.