Celtics

Al Horford shows why he's worth every single penny

Al Horford shows why he's worth every single penny

BOSTON – As the Boston Celtics players made their way towards the showers following their 113-107 overtime win against Milwaukee, Al Horford was moving more gingerly than usual.

No, it’s not another Celtics injury but rather a clear-as-day indication that Horford left all he had to offer on the court today, enough to help Boston escape with a 113-107 overtime win against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Boston now leads the best-of-seven series 1-0 with Game 2 at the TD Garden on Tuesday.

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As for Horford, he would lead the Celtics with a double-double that included a team-high 24 points to go along with 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocked shots.

Making the performance by Horford even more impressive offensively is that the bulk of his points came from the free throw line where he was 13-for-14, damn near doubling up his previous playoff career-high for free throws made (7) and attempted (8).

“We were trying to get me in post-up situations,” Horford said. “They did a good job fronting and making it difficult for me to get the ball and the way that they were playing me, it’s forcing me to be closer to the basket, which is fine with me. I’m just trying to find ways to be efficient and help the team.”

Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens: “We’re going to ride Al. It’s just … he’s been unbelievable in being a facilitator for us all year. He has his moments because of the way that we’re being defended, where he gets to be more of a featured scorer. With where we are now, he’s going to be more of a featured scorer, and facilitate, and guard Giannis (Antetokounmpo), and do everything … he’ll probably run our film session tomorrow. So that’s … that’s his job.”

Indeed, Horford’s greatest strength since he signed with the Celtics in the summer of 2016, has been his versatility to impact the game in a multitude of ways at both ends of the floor.

And this time of year, that means Boston will lean even more on the five-time all-star than usual.

That was certainly the case on Sunday with Horford playing more than 44 minutes – just two minutes less than his playoff career high in minutes played which occurred in 2012 when he played for the Atlanta Hawks and they faced the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown, another member of the sore and slow-moving Celtics on Sunday following the win, recognized his elder teammate’s slow gait as well.

“I know Al’s body is killing him,” said Brown who played a team-high 46 minutes. “he’ll be alright. Everybody has to recover. Get some sleep, ice down and he’ll be alright.”

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Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

MILWAUKEE -- The NBA’s two-minute report from Boston’s 92-87 Game 5 win on Tuesday confirmed what many thought at the time: A 3-point heave by Al Horford with 1:18 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Celtics leading 84-79 was not released prior to the 24-second shot clock expiring, and the Bucks should have been awarded the ball.
 
Following the game, Milwaukee interim head coach Joe Prunty was vocal in his belief that the officials made a mistake in not calling a 24-second violation. The lead official, Ken Mauer, told a pool reporter that the play was not reviewable because Horford missed the shot. Had he made it, the referees could have reviewed it.
 
“The rule states that under two minutes we are not allowed to review a potential 24-second violation unless the ball goes into the basket,” Mauer said.
 
Prunty understood the reason for the refusal to review the play, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with. 
 
The Bucks were focused on getting the ball back and, trailing 84-79, would have had a chance to make it a one-possession game with about a minute to play. The call didn't cost Milwaukee any points, even though the Celtics successfully rebounded Horford's miss and retained possession; Marcus Morris subsequently missed a shot. Still, Boston was able to take about 20 seconds off the clock.

“That was a huge stop to get in Game 5 of a playoff series where both teams are putting everything on the line,” Prunty said after practice on Wednesday. “That’s a tough time to have a missed call. I know for me, I had a great view of it. So what I thought was a shot-clock violation was not called.”

In Sunday's Game 4, the NBA said Milwaukee's Khris Middleton should have been called for fouling Jaylen Brown with less than a minute to play as Brown drove to the basket attempting to extend Boston's 100-99 lead. Instead Brown lost the ball and the Bucks eventuallly pulled out a 104-102 victory.
 
That specific call was one of 15 made by the officials in the final two minutes of play. Of the calls made, the other 14 were correct calls or correct non-calls upon review.

Celtics defense reemerges in Game 5

Celtics defense reemerges in Game 5

BOSTON – It was bound to happen sooner or later.

The Celtics’ defense has been too good this season to continue to get broken down one game after another by Milwaukee.

And the 92-87 Game 5 win Tuesday night was the breakthrough performance they had been longing for after four straight sub-par performances defensively.

The Celtics held the Bucks to several playoff lows on Tuesday, such as scoring (87 points), field-goal percentage (.348) and three-point shooting percentage (.273).

The return of Marcus Smart certainly bolstered Boston's defense. But more than anything, the Celtics played on a defensive string most of the night which was evident in Boston having a team defensive rating of 87.2 for Game 5 - their best defensive rating in the postseason.

Here are five other takeaways from the victory that gave the Celtics a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 Thursday night in Milwaukee:

50-50 BALLS


One of the domino effects of having Marcus Smart back in the lineup in Game 5, was his impact on getting loose balls. According to NBA.com/stats, Smart had two loose balls recovered which was part of Boston corralling 14 loose balls in Game 5 which was a series-high for the Celtics and loose balls recovered.

AL HORFORD


Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all; at least that’s what seems to work for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens in his dealings with Al Horford who made a major impact on Game 5 in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. He had a double-double of 22 points and 14 rebounds, but he also led the team in critical, below-the-radar categories such as contested shots (15) and box outs (12).

SEMI OJELEYE


A last-minute insertion into the starting lineup, Semi Ojeleye’s presence was felt. His defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo was important for Boston, obviously. But he also contributed in other categories, finishing second on the team in contested shots (10) and box-outs (8), the latter being critical to Boston’s continued dominance of the Bucks on the boards.

MORE PLAY IN THE POST


Boston got great mileage out of working in the post, but probably could have gone there more frequently. While the praise of Brad Stevens’ team continued to flow in, Stevens recognized his team has to do a better job at getting action in the post for Game 6. “We’ve got to be better at getting there, to the rim, and making decisions there,” Stevens said. “And I thought we did a good job at times, but we’ve just got to be a lot more consistent at it. Because they’re coming, they’ve got great length, they’re hard to score on. You know, we only threw it in there, I think, a couple times in the fourth quarter, to the post, and we probably need to be better at action and spacing around it.”

LIMITING THE GREEK FREAK'S TRANSITION GAME


There are few in the NBA who can strike fear in a defense the way Giannis Antetokounmpo can when he’s out in transition. Not only did Boston limit him to 10 shots taken, but of his 16 points, only two were of the fast-break variety according to NBA.com/stats. “It was our fifth time playing them,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Giannis, we wanted to limit in transition. And I think we did a pretty good job with that.”

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