Celtics-Warriors: Al Horford shines in NBA Finals debut, leads Boston comeback with career night

Celtics-Warriors: Al Horford shines in NBA Finals debut, leads Boston comeback with career night

Let’s take a moment to appreciate Al Horford’s recovery journey. In November 2020, he was shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder after his time with the Philadelphia 76ers ended unceremoniously. At that time, he had three years and $109 million remaining on a contract that was only a year old and aging like milk. He had just finished a season with the Sixers where he struggled to cement his role alongside Joel Embiid, and looked like a shell of the efficient and productive player we used to see with the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks. .

Fast forward two years later, and not only Horford plays in his first NBA Finals game already, his 26-point, six-rebound performance just led the Celtics to a Game 1 win over the Golden State Warriors. Horford’s six 3-point shots were also the most in a single game of his career.

After the game, Horford shared his emotions as he finally reached the NBA Finals after missing for so long.

“Just grateful for this opportunity,” Horford said. “Just grateful to be in this position. God put me in this position, and it’s something that I embrace and I’m excited. Just excited to be able to share this stage with this group of guys. We have a lot great guys here, guys who have really bought into what we’re trying to do, it’s just fun to see it all come together.

That certainly came to fruition for Horford, who struggled to start offensively in Boston’s last two games against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. He combined to go just 2 of 12 from long range in Games 6 and 7 against the Heat, and finished with just eight points in those two contests. Fatigue could have been a factor in his poor performance to end this series, as clearly the three days off did wonders for the grizzled veteran, who turns 36 on Friday.

From the first quarter of Game 1, Horford was rolling. He was knocking down midrange jumpers after elbow jumping and sinking from open rhythm 3s on the wing.

As each quarter progressed, Horford continued to lay the groundwork for perfect offensive play with every shot made, and it culminated in a dominating performance in the fourth quarter with him and Jaylen Brown. Boston was down 12 points to open the fourth quarter, but a punch from Horford and Brown helped put the Celtics out of a hole.

It was Horford’s 3-pointer five minutes from time that gave Boston the final lead of the game. He then scored eight points in the final three minutes to secure the Celtics victory and hand Golden State its first home playoff loss this season.

The Celtics couldn’t have asked for a better performance from Horford, especially on a night when Jayson Tatum was overrun by the defense and instead had to make an impact with his passing. The All-Star forward finished with just 12 of 3 of 17 points from the field and 1 of 5 from beyond the arc, but had 13 assists. Horford was on the receiving end of some of those passes from Tatum, and he capitalized almost every time. A scoreless night for Tatum would usually spell disaster for Boston, but the team’s depth was on display and Horford’s play at both ends of the court was central to it.

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