Nenad Krstic will miss a few games while recovering from a knee injury suffered Thursday, which leaves the Boston Celtics with not a whole lot of depth heading into Friday's game against Atlanta Hawks (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Celtics won't have Shaquille O'Neal back until Sunday at the earliest, which means Kevin Garnett will likely run as Boston's de-facto center while J.O. rests. And that should be plenty of the game -- Thursday night's win over the Spurs was O'Neal's first action since Jan. 10, and the tall veteran played just 11 minutes.
Elsewhere, the C's are stacked. Rajon Rondo had a terrific game against San Antonio, squelching some of the concerns about his recent slump. In this particular matchup, there's no true center to really punish Boston's lack of depth at the position; Jason Collins may start for the Hawks, as he has in spots all year. Collins played Dwight Howard well on Tuesday, goading the Magic All-Star into early foul trouble and 4-13 shooting. As the Hawks will almost certainly face the Magic in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, coach Larry Drew could focus on getting the team ready by including Collins in the starting five for the balance of the regular season. If so, Garnett and Al Horford will match up in a doozy of a battle.
Boston has plenty to play for, as the race for the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the East remain up for grabs. Chicago has a decent lead for No. 1, but Boston has an opportunity to make up a game later in April as the teams pair off one final time. A loss to Atlanta pushes the Celtics further back, and gives the Heat an opportunity to jump up.