Celtics

Every Team Needs an Al Horford

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After 17 seasons, Al Horford finally has his NBA championship. 

The 38-year-old was a key contributor as the Boston Celtics romped to the title. After an injury to big man Kristaps Porzingis, Horford stepped up, starting 15 of the team’s 19 playoff games. He averaged 9.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, adding nearly one steal and a block per contest as well. 

In Boston’s closeout game, the Florida product put up nine points and nine rebounds, hitting two threes and adding two assists and two steals. It was the typical Horford-type game that Celtics fans have grown accustomed to— a little bit of everything. NBA fans tend to look past his contributions, and in some ways, it’s understandable.

The Dominican big man isn’t the flashiest player, and following the arrival of Porzingis, he was dropped from the starting lineup. Regardless, Horford’s skillset is among the most coveted in today’s NBA. Even as the seventh-oldest player in the league, his game is still improving.

Horford only attempted 18 total three-pointers during his first six seasons in the league, earning two All-Star nominations. He pushed that number to 47 attempts over the next two years before exploding to 256 attempts. His three-point shooting, seemingly out of nowhere, has done wonders for the Celtics offense during his time in Boston. 

For the second-straight season, Horford shot more than 40% from beyond the arc. This has allowed head coach Joe Mazzulla to run a five-out offense, meaning all of Boston’s players start the offense from behind the three-point line. It’s caused problems for plenty of opposing centers, who are forced to guard Horford on the perimeter.

With no rim protector in the paint, it opened up plenty of driving lanes for Horford’s teammates, like superstars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

Thanks to Brown and Tatum’s improved playmaking, it’s led to plays like this: 

In this clip against the Dallas Mavericks in this year’s NBA Finals, Horford gets a wide-open three. Mavericks center Daniel Gafford sees Brown driving to the rim, so he moves to cut off a potential driving lane. Against most teams, that’s an acceptable decision. 

Against Boston, however, Horford waits for Brown to make the right pass to the corner. Gafford rotates too late, and it’s an easy three points for the Celtics.

Factoring in Boston’s defeat in the 2022 Finals, Horford made 56% of his three-point attempts on the NBA’s biggest stage. It’s the highest number of any player in NBA Finals history a testament to how many times the big man has saved the Celtics with his timely shooting. 

That’s the great part about Horford’s game— he thrives under pressure.

In 2022, he dropped 26 points and six threes in his NBA Finals debut, tied for the second-most points by a Celtic in their first Finals game.

Horford isn’t afraid to make winning plays, and it’s why he’s always been a fan favorite. 

In the same game as before, we see the Dominican big man move his feet to prevent a drive to the basket. Horford then dives on the floor to kick off a fastbreak, capped by a Brown layup on the other end.

He’s been a winner his entire career, and it feels fitting that it’s finally culminated in a championship. 

It’s hard to imagine the Celtics winning this year’s title without Horford, and as next season might be his last, it’s the proper send-off for a player who’s more than earned his respect.  

About Henry Daley

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