Three things to look for in Game 3 of the Celtics-Hawks Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Friday night:

Rondo’s return

When Rajon Rondo was suspended for Game 2, the rest of the team — OK, mostly Paul Pierce — bailed him out. Now, Rondo and the Celtics are back in Boston for Friday’s Game 3 (7:30 p.m., CSNNE), and you can bet he will bring it. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Rondo tried to downplay that he needed to prove something Friday. But don’t think for a second that Rondo won’t make a point to stick it to everyone who continues to kick his name through the dirt every time something comes up about his attitude. Triple-double alert!

Kick ’em while they’re down

Game 2 is exactly why the monthlong talk about home court advantage was a complete waste of time. Once again, the Celtics took it with a win on the road. But if they lose one of two in Boston, they’ll hand it right back to the Hawks.

Game 3 is a huge game for each team. Historically, a team that takes a 2-1 series lead has won 82.1 percent of these series overall (266-58). Everything is working in favor of the Celtics right now: momentum, home court, ample rest, and oh yeah, better players.

In good health

The Celtics and Hawks both go into Game 3 with their own injury problems, but the Celtics may actually be in a better position. Ray Allen has missed the last 11 games with swelling in his ankle, but the C’s sharpshooter practiced in full on Tuesday. He remains a game-time decision, but it looks as though he’s going to return either Friday or Sunday, which is huge.


The Hawks, on the other hand, are without Al Horford for sure. Zaza Pachulia has also missed the first two games of the series. But the huge blow will be if Josh Smith misses Game 3. Smith left Game 2 with a sprained knee, and is also a game-time decision. The Hawks will need him if they want to entertain thoughts of taking a 2-1 series lead.

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