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Celtics vs. Hawks preview: Atlanta, Boston set for Eastern Conference clash

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The Hawks look for their 8th straight win tonight against the Celtics.

NBA: Playoffs-Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics are set for one of the most anticipated matchups of the regular season tonight when Al Horford makes his first return to Philips Arena.

For a brief moment it was unclear what this Hawks team would look like by the time this game arrived. The team had just traded Kyle Korver and were reportedly listening to offers for several of their veteran players most notably forward Paul Millsap. However, the team elected to reverse course and have since not only taken Millsap off the trade market, but have also informed him that he won’t be dealt between now and the deadline.

The results so far have been positive. Atlanta is riding a season-best seven-game winning streak and at 22-16, are just 1.5 games behind Boston for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks have rediscovered their defensive identity during the streak limiting teams to just 96.1 points per 100 possessions which is tops in the league over that span.

Atlanta is coming off of a 117-97 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. Dennis Schröder led the way with 19 points and 10 assists while Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard finished with 14 each.

While the Hawks have been off since Tuesday, the Celtics will be playing their third game in four nights. Boston has won seven of their last 10 games and most recently defeated the Wizards this past Wednesday.

The Celtics played that game without five players, three of which have already been ruled out for tonight’s game in Atlanta.

Avery Bradley, Tyler Zeller and James Young didn’t make the trip and won’t play in Friday’s game. Amir Johnson and Jaylen Brown sat out Wednesday’s game against the Wizards and will be game-time decisions against the Hawks.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Friday, January 13, 8 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Ga

TV: ESPN, Fox Sports Southeast

Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM