If the Boston Celtics go on to win the NBA championship, Al Horford’s Game 4 performance will live on in Boston sports lore until the east coast splits into the Atlantic, or nevertheless, real climate change. penetration of this planet.
Without him on Monday night, the Celtics went down 3-1 against the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks, and instead returned to Boston with a even series and have regained the home field advantage. Nothing would have happened without Horford’s spectacular performance. Of the 30 points he scored – a career playoff career high – 16 of them came in the fourth quarter, including two monster 3-pointers, the last of which would give the Celtics the lead at the end of the fourth quarter that they won’t give up for the rest of the game.
For the Celtics in need of all those points last night, when Horford was at their best, it was on the defensive side of the ball. According to Stat Muse, when he defended Giannis Antetokounmpo, Horford was able to keep him 30.6% off the pitch.
While Monday was a career night for Horford, it was also a statistical difference. Despite being a five-time NBA All-Star, nothing else stands out when looking at his basketball reference page. He is known as a reliable goalscorer, but he has never averaged even 19 points per game in a season. He’s only averaged double-digit rebounds once in his career and has been named to the same number of All-NBA and All-Defensive teams. Even if he’s in Florida – the last multi-season league in college men’s basketball – he’s averaging fewer points per game than Joakim Noah and never a consensus American, but Horford will be #3 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft and Noah will be picked ninth.
Then scouts knew what NBA players, media and fans would find out afterwards. While there’s nothing spectacular about Horford’s game, his steady presence and basketball IQ being the pinnacle of Josh Smith’s vertical jump, he’s the type of player who will always make a splash. difference for a team – unless he’s playing alongside Joel Embiid in 2020 NBA’s version of COVID, of course.
After consecutive collegiate national championships in 2005 and 2006 – Florida is the only men’s program to do so since Duke won the title consecutively in 1991 and 1992 – he went to the Atlanta Hawks and made an immediate impact. Smith and Iso Joe were there for two seasons when Horford was enlisted, but didn’t do much to get the Hawks out of the spiral they’ve been in since the turn of the millennium – no playoffs. Not only did the Hawks make it to the knockout stages in Horford’s five rookies, but as the eighth seed, they knocked down eventual NBA champions the Celtics by seven games in the first round.
During Horford’s time with the Hawks, they never missed the playoffs. Sure, many of those series were on NBA TV, but for the first time since Dikembe Mutombo, Mookie Blaylock and Steve Smith won 50 games at The Omni and Georgia Dome, it was the Hawks that came out on top. Sure, Josh Smith’s inability to become the first player to usher in a three-point era five years early was disappointing given Jeff Teague’s inconsistent play, but it was Horford who held it steady. In high positions, in low positions, both offensively and defensively, he is their rock. So what if he doesn’t give out Iso Joe’s number? It’s yours Recover attack and score that gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead over the Washington Wizards in the 2015 playoffs and will help push the franchise to its first appearance in the conference finals since it took place in St. Louis. Until Trae Young’s performance in the playoffs last year, it was the undisputed biggest in Atlanta Hawks history.
It was Horford’s final season with the Hawks. He will go on to sign with the Celtics, where he will completely change the way he plays. It is in Boston, where his defense will be nationally recognized as he puts a young Embiid in the penalty box every time the Celtics play the Philadelphia 76ers, and can still move into the box when necessary. Then, when he commits a crime, he can still do what he did with the Hawks, but the Celtics need more space in the paint for their offense to work.
So after averaging more than half an effort of 3 points per game just once while with the Hawks, Horford will not only be trying for more than three points per game against the Celtics but in four seasons with them he shoots they’re just under 37 percent. Something he managed to do during one season in Atlanta, which will be crucial to helping the Celtics reach the Eastern Conference Finals consecutively against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After two years apart in Philadelphia and Oklahoma City, the Celtics brought Horford back to their roster with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who are no longer college-age kids but young NBA men All-Star. As of January, the Celtics are arguably the best team in the league, and are currently in a dogfight with the Bucks. As great as Tatum and Brown since the start of the year, who carried the Celtics through a road game they’ve watched most and desperately need to win – Horford.
When his career is over, how he is remembered will depend on where a person lives and/or how fanatical they are of basketball. The people of Atlanta and Boston will have his memories in their happy place for the rest of their lives. For basketball fans, he will be remembered as the best player on one of the greatest college basketball teams of all time, and deserves all the hype before draft. This top-three pick may not generate many viral plays, nor is it a statistical monster in the NBA, but he has played brilliantly, winning basketball for 15 seasons, 18 if you calculate his time in Florida.
Since the Basketball Hall of Fame isn’t limited to a professional career, he deserves serious consideration. He’s one of the faces of the last reigning reign of college men’s basketball, and whether you feel like it’s a job, it’s a historic achievement. Throw in that point with five NBA All-Star appearances and a key contributor to competitive teams for most of his career, it’s a resume worthy of being displayed in Springfield.
If he doesn’t, he will surely earn the respect of those who have followed and stood by him for two decades. Horford may not be 20 or 10 guys, or amazing advanced analytics numbers, but if you’ve watched him play since he competed in standards at Gainesville, you know what you’ve seen – consistently great play .