Stars, studs and duds: Horford stands out in return to Celtics lineup

Stars, studs and duds: Horford stands out in return to Celtics lineup

As the days became weeks and the weeks became perceived as weakness, Al Horford refused to return to the floor until he was ready. 

In an interview with CSNNE.com on Friday night, he said he felt great and envisioned a return to the floor very soon. 

Less than 24 hours later, he was back on the floor and to the surprise of many, doing all the things that folks came to expect from him prior to being put in the NBA’s concussion protocol program. 


Horford had a stunning return to the floor on Saturday night in helping Boston defeat the Detroit Pistons 94-92. 

“I felt good; I felt really good,” said Horford who finished with a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds. “Very frustrating these past few weeks dealing with a lot of different thing.”

Horford added that he was “finally at a point where I felt good enough to play.”

Said head coach Brad Stevens: “Al was, for a guy that hasn’t played much in three weeks, looked really good out the gate.”

Horford’s return to the floor was part of a night in which the Celtics had their entire 15-man roster healthy for the first time this season. 

Both Horford and Jae Crowder returned to the floor on Saturday, but it was Horford’s performance that really stood out.

Isaiah Thomas has never minced words when it comes to discussing how important Horford is to the team’s chances at success. 

“He makes a huge difference,” Thomas said. “Even if he’s not scoring, he’s defending, he’s making plays for others. Just his presence out there, makes the court more open for other guys to create and make plays.”

Here’s a closer look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.



Al Horford

It’s hard to imagine Al Horford could have played much better than he did on Saturday, a performance that was even more impressive considering he had missed Boston’s previous nine games. He tallied a double-double of 18 points (he scored the game-winning points) and 11 rebounds to go with five assists and three blocked shots which included one at the end of the game to seal the win.

Andre Drummond

One of the most dominant centers in the NBA gave the Celtics major fits despite early foul trouble. He delivered a dominant double-double of 20 points and 17 rebounds.



Isaiah Thomas

After calling out the team and coaching staff following the Golden State loss, Thomas delivered one of his more complete games offensively on Saturday. He finished with a near double-double of 24 points and eight assists without a single turnover.

Marcus Morris

He had it going early and often for Detroit, a big reason why the Pistons were within striking distance most of the game. He finished with 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting with five rebounds and two assists.



Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

He hit a big shot for the Pistons in the fourth quarter, but missed his other field goal attempts and finished with just four points. 

Irving, Brown out again for Celtics tonight vs. Thunder

Irving, Brown out again for Celtics tonight vs. Thunder

BOSTON – The injury report remains the same for the Celtics who will enter tonight’s game against Oklahoma City with a roster that remains shorthanded.

In addition to Gordon Hayward (left ankle) who has been out all season, joining him on the inactive list tonight are Jaylen Brown (NBA concussion protocol); Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness); Marcus Smart (right thumb sprain) and Daniel Theis (out for season after left knee meniscal tear surgery).

Only Irving and Brown are expected to return in the near future. Theis had his season-ending surgery last week, the Celtics continue to insist Hayward won't play this season and Smart has a shot at returning at some point in the playoffs as early as the latter stages of the first round or early in the second.


Celtics-Thunder preview: Balancing rest and rhythm

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Celtics-Thunder preview: Balancing rest and rhythm

BOSTON – With the NBA playoffs looming, this is a tricky time of year for most of the league’s playoff-bound teams. 

Both players and coaches want to head into the postseason well-rested. 

But they also want to be in a good playing rhythm.

MORE - OKC not taking shorthanded C's for granted

Injuries have forced the Boston Celtics to sit some players who are likely to be able to play (and well-rested) when the playoffs. 

And tonight’s foe, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are in a similar situation as well. 

“It's something you're walking a tightrope on all the time, where a guy is really rested but you've taken him out of rhythm,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “The biggest thing is, there's gotta be communication between the players and the medical staff, coaches, of where guys are, what they need.

Donovan added, “I think rest this time of year would help any player, but there's a balance between maybe getting too much rest and maybe getting out of rhythm. The players are always walking that line during the course of the year, because you kind of get into a rhythm of playing every other day, you get into that, and then there's a back to back here or there, and you get three games in four nights, but yeah. You try to best as you can with your players, help them balance that the best they can.”

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook can see how some players might need to strike a balance between getting enough rest late in the season while maintaining a good playing rhythm.  

So, I asked him which is his preference?

“I prefer to play,” he said. “Rhythm and all that (expletive), it’s in your mind.”

For Westbrook, maybe so. 

But it is very real to a number of players in the NBA, among them being his teammate and fellow All-Star Paul George. 

“If you know why you’re in the gym and the work you’re getting, you lock in,” George said. “You prepare, get your work done. And you get off your legs, get off our feet and get your rest. It’s easy to balance the two when you know what exactly you’re doing and you know exactly what you need to do.”

Boston has worked to strike that balance with Kyrie Irving all season.

That’s why the five-time All-Star is averaging 24.4 points per game which is 11th in the league. However, he’s doing it in 32.2 minutes which ranks 55th in the league in minutes played per game. 

Lately, Irving has gotten more time off than he would like as he deals with a sore left knee that has kept him sidelined for the Celtics’ last three games. 

It doesn’t appear to be something that will limit him now.

However, having him sit out games now increases the likelihood that he’ll be ready to roll at or near full strength, when the playoffs arrive. 

Boston is also playing without Jaylen Brown who suffered a concussion when he fell on his back following a dunk at Houston on March 3. He is expected to return at some point between now and the end of the regular season which could be a blessing in disguise for the 6-foot-7 Brown who will be called upon to not only remain Boston’s next-best scoring option to Kyrie Irving, but also defend at a high level. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged that they have given thought to how to find that happy medium between resting guys while ensuring as best they can, that players will be refreshed for the playoffs. 

“We haven’t been in that situation very often, where we choose to do rest except for that stretch in December when we rested Al (Horford),” Stevens said. “But everything else has kind of happened organically with guys being dinged up or whatever the case may be. I think that’s … we’ll probably be in a situation where we will continue to have those discussions.”