BOSTON – The Al Horford love fest continues with the veteran big man delivering yet another impressive performance for the Boston Celtics.
And this one?
Unlike his play in the preseason, Wednesday night's game counts.
Horford’s all-around play was pivotal to Boston holding on for a 122-117 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
CELTICS 122, NETS 117:
The four-time All-Star made several high-basketball IQ-type plays that in hindsight, were major key moments in Boston pushing its lead to as many as 23 points.
In the third quarter with Boston ahead 71-65, Horford took advantage of Brooklyn closing out too hard on him and drove into the lane. As the Nets defenders collapsed to take away a shot attempt in the lane, Horford swung the ball to Jae Crowder whose jumper triggered a 14-5 run.
Boston would lead by double figures until the last couple of minutes of the game.
“We have to keep playing the right way, for 48 minutes,” Horford said when asked about the team’s late-game collapse.
The late-game struggles aside, there was a lot to like about how the Celtics played throughout the first 40 minutes.
And a big part of that strong play has to be credited to Horford whose ability to help keep the ball moving allowed the Celtics to finish with 36 assists on 48 made field goals, the kind of opening night assist numbers that haven’t been seen around these parts in decades.
Horford was among those getting into the act, scoring 11 points to go with five rebounds and six assists.
To see him racking up guard-like assist numbers isn’t unusual when you consider he was third in the league last season in assists per game (3.2) for a center.
“Guys were moving the ball very well,” Horford said. “It’s kind of contagious.”
Said Crowder: “I never saw coaches clap on a three-second call. We moved the ball in the first quarter so much we got a three-second call. We passed up a lot of open shots. It just shows how unselfish we are playing as a unit.”
And while that selfless brand of basketball was on display at times last season, the addition of Horford seems to have taken it to another level.
“He opens the floor, he makes it easier for everybody; he’s always in the right spots, he’s a threat at all times,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “He can hit the 3, hit the mid-range, and also post up so he has the full package; a guy that makes it easy for everybody.”