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Hawks hope home-court advantage is enough to solve Celtics

The Atlanta Hawks take their latest shot at trying to solve the Boston Celtics in the postseason when the two teams kick off their Eastern Conference quarterfinals set at Philips Arena.

In the playoffs, this rivalry dates all the way back to the 1956-57 season when the Hawks called St. Louis home. Since moving to the Peach State in 1968, however, the Hawks have never beaten the Celtics in the postseason, losing six straight series (1972, '73, '83, '86, '88 and 2008.)

This time around in the East's 4-5 matchup, Atlanta has earned home- court advantage over Boston even though it is seeded fifth, since the Hawks finished with one more win than the Atlantic Division champions.

"Well, we'd rather not (start on the road)," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Honestly. It would've been easier to open up at home, but we're just not."

The home floor was more than instrumental the last time these teams tangled in the postseason. The host prevailed each time during an entertaining seven-game first-round series in 2008 as the Celtics won in Game 7 by 34 points en route to the franchise's 17th NBA title.

"It's real big," said Hawks forward Josh Smith of having home-court advantage. "We experienced that when we first made the playoffs five years ago and we had to play against a rowdy crowd in Boston. Having home-court advantage is definitely key."

The "Boston Three Party" of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen with the help of superlative point guard Rajon Rondo, turned it on at the right time during the regular season and left both New York and Philadelphia in the dust en route to a fifth straight Atlantic crown.

Most thought the lockout-shortened campaign would work against the aged Celtics but here they are again in position to make another, perhaps final run with this group.

The Hawks, even without All-Star big man Al Horford, are much younger and far more athletic than the C's.

Horford, a two-time All-Star, missed most of the season recovering from surgery to repair a torn left pectoral muscle, He had hoped to give the Hawks a lift in the playoffs but that was shelved earlier this week.

The big man was able to practice Monday but awoke sore the next day, a realization that his left arm isn't where it needs to be to endure what figures to be a grueling playoff series.

"I realized that I'm not nearly where I need to be or want to be -- not even to give the team anything," Horford told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "That's when we kind of decided that it was best for me to take some time off, keep working, see how I progress. But we are just not where we need to be yet."

Meanwhile, Horford's replacement in the starting lineup, Zaza Pachulia missed the last seven games of the regular season with a sprained left foot and will be a game-time decision on Sunday.

For the C's, Allen has not played in two weeks due to a sore right ankle, and may not be ready for the series opener. The sharpshooter, who will probably need surgery after the playoffs, did take a cortisone shot in an effort to play.

Boston won two of three over the Hawks in the regular season and split a pair of games at Philips Arena.

"We played them recently a couple times, but we wanted to take one game at a time and focus on the other guys that we had to beat," Rondo said. "We know the Hawks pretty well and they know us and its gonna be a tough matchup."