at TD Garden, 8 p.m. | TNT, WEEI (850 AM)
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
Boston can win its 12th straight game for the first time since Jan. 11-Feb. 3, 2009, when it hosts the Atlanta Hawks.
This is the fifth winning streak of 10 or more games for the Celtics (20-4) since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce on the team for the start of 2007-08. Last season, Boston won 11 straight at nearly the exact same time -- Nov. 22-Dec. 14 -- before falling short of a 12th consecutive victory.
The current streak reached 11 on Wednesday -- barely. Pierce's jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining capped a come-from-behind 118-116 victory over New York. The Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire then made a 3-point attempt, but it was ruled to have come after the buzzer.
"When I seen that shot, it was like [Pierce] went to a natural shooting rhythm and just seemed like he took a little bit more time," Allen said. "And that goes back to our possession when (Pierce) hit the shot, taking as much time off the clock that we could, because imagine if they had .8 on the clock or .9 on the clock, that would have been a different story."
Pierce finished with a season-high 32 points to lead Boston, which also got 20 points and 13 rebounds from Kevin Garnett and 26 points from Allen to become the first Eastern Conference team to 20 wins.
Read the full preview HERE.
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Don't expect a repeat: Sure, the Celtics put a 23-point thumping on Atlanta the last time the two teams met in November and, yes, it came on the tail end of a back-to-back. But Boston expended a lot of energy Wednesday in New York and they won't have the motivation that a head-shaking loss in Toronto provided before the first meeting with Atlanta. This could be a night the Celtics desperately need their bench to provide a spark if the starters come out of the gates sluggish, especially after Rivers leaned on a tight eight-man rotation Wednesday.
Rondo out: Of course, the Celtics will have to use their entire roster out of necessity. Rajon Rondo will miss "a couple of weeks" after spraining his left ankle Wednesday night, vice president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told WEEI on Thursday. That means Nate Robinson will be thrust back into the starting lineup -- a starting lineup that already features rookie Semih Erden pinch-hitting at center with Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, and Kendrick Perkins all sidelined (or as Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked, "21 feet of centers."
No Joe, No Jamal: The Celtics do catch a break as both Jamal Crawford (Atlanta's sixth man who slayed Boston last season) and Joe Johnson won't suit up for the Hawks. Still, winners of eight of their last 11, the Hawks will get no sympathy from Boston, especially with Atlanta having enjoyed three of the last four days off (the Hawks lost in Detroit on Tuesday).