Celtics To End Hawks' Winning Streak In Horford's Return To Atlanta

Matthew Jordan

Friday, January 13, 2017 1:13 AM UTC

Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 1:13 AM UTC

Boston Celtics big man Al Horford was one of the best players in Hawks history, and he makes his emotional return to Atlanta on Friday night. Horford's former club is currently the hottest team in basketball and a slight betting favorite.

Certainly Friday's homecoming for Al Horford is nothing like when Dwyane Wade returned to Miami earlier this season or Derrick Rose to Chicago. Or like the media zoo it will be when Kevin Durant returns to Oklahoma City next month. That's because Horford really never got the superstar attention in Atlanta. The guy was a very good player there, though.

Horford was drafted third overall out of the University of Florida in 2007 and spent his first nine years in a Hawks uniform, making four All-Star teams. He had career averages of 14.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 blocks and a stellar field-goal percentage of 53.1. Horford played in 578 games, despite having lost nearly two seasons to two separate torn pectoral muscles. He ranks fourth in franchise history in defensive rebounds and seventh in offensive boards. He's second in field-goal percentage and sixth in blocks. If you go by win shares, which is like WAR for a baseball player, Horford ranks fifth in Hawks history behind Bob Pettit, Dominique Wilkins, Cliff Hagan and Lou Hudson.

In the national scope, Horford was rather anonymous because the Hawks usually were. They were always sort of stuck in the middle during Horford's time -- not bad enough to get a high draft pick and  compete for championships but not good enough to seriously challenge for an Eastern Conference title.

Atlanta wanted to re-sign Horford this offseason when he hit free agency and offered five years and $136 million. Horford opted for a four-year deal  worth $113 from the Celtics, who also gave Horford a better shot at a championship over the next four years. This season in 29 games, Horford is averaging 15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.9 blocks.

“It’s very, very weird for me,” Horford said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday about his return. “I’m really close with those guys in the locker room. It’s just very different. There is no way else I can put it.”

The Hawks are planning a video tribute to Horford to be shown during the game, and he likely will be welcomed back warmly. Boston (24-15) enters  having won five of six but is a 2.5-point underdog on NBA odds. There are two reasons for that line. The first is because guard Avery Bradley (Achilles) and center Tyler Zeller (illness) are both out and forward/center Amir Johnson (ankle) is in doubt.

The second reason is that Atlanta (22-16) is on an NBA-high seven-game winning streak despite recently trading former All-Star guard Kyle Korver to Cleveland. However, just one of those wins was over a quality team: New Year's Day in overtime against San Antonio. The Hawks come off a four-game road trip where they handled the Magic, Pelicans, Mavericks and Nets -- four bad teams. During the win streak the Hawks are averaging 106.4 ppg and have held their opponents below 100 six times.

The Hawks won the season series with Boston 3-1 last year and have taken the past four at home. I'm going with the Celtics, however, and expect a big night from Horford. The Hawks are just 2-8 ATS on NBA picks in their past 10 at home and 0-6 ATS in their past six home games following a road trip of at least a week.

NBA Free Pick: Celtics +2.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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