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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, April 12th (All times eastern)

Boston Celtics (63-16) at Atlanta Hawks (37-42), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Hawks are closing in on their first playoff berth since the 1998-99 season, as they open a two-game homestand tonight versus the Boston Celtics at Philips Arena.

The Hawks are two games ahead of the Indiana Pacers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with just three games left on the regular-season schedule. Even though the Pacers hold the tiebreaker after winning the season series, Atlanta can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight and an Indiana loss to Charlotte.

The Hawks will also host Orlando, and own a 25-14 record at home this season.

Atlanta has won two of three and seven of its last nine games, including Friday's 116-104 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in the finale of a three-game road trip. Joe Johnson recorded 34 points and buried six three-pointers to lead the way.

Josh Smith and Mike Bibby each scored 24 points for the Hawks. Al Horford added 19 points and 11 rebounds in a winning effort.

Boston will open a two-game road trip on Saturday against Atlanta and New York, and owns a 29-10 mark away from Beantown this season.

The Celtics have won eight of their last nine games, including Friday's 102-86 triumph over Milwaukee at TD Banknorth Garden. Rajon Rondo scored 16 points and dished out 10 assists for Boston, which is the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Paul Pierce chipped in 14 points and James Posey had 13 off the bench to help extend Boston's home winning streak to seven games.

Boston is 2-0 against the Hawks this season, and has won three of four and six of the previous 11 matchups. It has dropped two in a row and six of eight on the road in this series, however.

04/12 11:01:08 ET


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