Horford's all-around play key in first regular-season game with Celtics

Horford's all-around play key in first regular-season game with Celtics

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.”

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum had another strong performance for the Boston Celtics, doing so against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a player Tatum has acknowledged on more than one occasion he has looked up to. 

That admiration didn’t get in the way of Tatum delivering a big-time performance in helping Boston rally from six points down with 12.7 seconds to play, to knock off the Thunder 100-99.

Tatum tallied a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. And doing so at 20 years and 17 days old, Tatum became the youngest player in franchise history to tally at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.

“It feels good,” Tatum said when asked about his first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound game in the NBA. “But honestly, I’m just glad we won. That was a big win against a great team and it was fun playing out there today.”

Impacting the game on multiple levels offensively along with being a defensive and rebounding force are qualities often associated with George who became familiar with Tatum prior to last June’s NBA draft which is when the Celtics selected him with the third overall pick. 

“I reached out to him before he was coming into this draft and I got to talk to him,” said George, who had 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds against the Celtics. “It’s an honor when you see young talent. I‘ve been inspired by many in this league so it’s great to inspire the younger generation in this league.”

And while Tatum may be young, he continues to prove himself up for whatever challenges await him. 

“We are going to keep throwing to the wolves and keep going to him in those moments,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston closed out the game with an 8-1 spurt in the final 24.7 seconds, with Tatum either scoring or assisting on five of those points which includes assistant on Marcus Morris’ game-winner.

Tatum’s composure down the stretch comes from being influenced by many, including George who considers it “an honor” that Tatum holds him in high regard. 

“At the end of the day, us veteran guys want the younger guys to take the game further and advance much farther than what I was,” George said. “There’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson (Tatum) that are probably already looking up to Jayson (Tatum).”


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

1:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss Kyrie Irving getting a second opinion on his injured knee and what the Kyrie’s options are for the remainder of the season.

5:53 - Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine break down the Celtics stunning last second comeback win over the Thunder with multiple key players sitting out.

10:27 - Tom Curran and Jerod Mayo stop by Early Edition to play a game of Fill in the Blank that involves Gronkowski’s contract and the Patriots best offseason acquisition.