Celtics

Horford's heroics give C's their fourth-straight win

Horford's heroics give C's their fourth-straight win

BOSTON – So often when it comes to late-game heroics, Al Horford is often the Boston Celtics' set-up man. Someone else takes the shot for the win that Horford’s screen or his pass for the game-winner, helped arrange. 

The Portland Trail Blazers prepared for this, which is why they were caught off guard when head coach Brad Stevens called Horford's number and he didn't disappoint in drilling a buzzer-beating jumper that lifted Boston to a 97-96 win.  

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Players acknowledged afterwards that the initial call was for Jaylen Brown, but head coach Brad Stevens called an audible at the last second, for the shot to be taken instead by Horford. 

“They (Blazers) read it perfectly because I wanted to hand him (Brown) the ball and they stayed tight on him,” said Horford who tallied his team-leading 13th double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists. “So once that happened I was very aggressive, went to a go-to move.”

Yes, the step-back fade-away jumper that Horford has drained time and time again, swished through the net when it really mattered. 

Horford’s ability to deliver when it counted most, speaks to the depth of this Celtics team particularly when it comes to winning games despite not playing their best basketball. 

“We were hoping, or I was hoping, to get Jaylen a look,” Horford said. “They made it clear from the beginning they were taking that away, so I just made a play for the team and I’m glad the shot went down.”

So are the Celtics (39-15), winners of four in a row as they head out for a two-game road trip that begins in Toronto which is the team closest to Boston in the standings. 

“That shot epitomizes the work he’s been putting in all year,” Brown said. “Al’s been playing really well for us, making plays and defending at a really high level.”

It was fitting that the game was decided by a Horford basket. 

Because for most of the night, Horford’s ability to impact the shot-making of both Boston and Portland, was a major factor. 

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Combine that with him running more at the point, defending big men and switching out on perimeter players looking to attack off the dribble, and it all adds up to a strong performance by Horford under some less-than-ideal challenges. 

“It’s a lot to ask of him,” Brown said. “But he embraces it, steps up to the challenge and he does it with class and elegance. That’s why we love Al, because Al is Al, every day of the week.”

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Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

LOS ANGELES -- Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were on different teams for the NBA's All-Star game pitting Team LeBron vs Team Steph, so somebody was coming back a loser.

But considering how competitive the game was for longer stretches than usual, both players came away feeling good in a relatively close All-Star game that ended with Team LeBron edging Team Steph, 148-145.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points along with 10 rebounds and 8 assists and walked away with Game MVP honors for the third time.

Irving, who played for Team LeBron, had a near double-double with 13 points and nine assists along with seven rebounds.

And Horford, who came off the bench for Team Steph, had six points and five rebounds along with two assists.  

“This was pretty fun,” Irving said. “I think that we showcased that tonight with an incredible competitive spirit. The game was kind of getting away, but I think a few of us took it a little personal that we wanted to keep the game still competitive and at a high level. Fans and everyone across so many different countries want to see the best players in the world showcase their talent.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the game, which had a different format this year. LeBron James and Stephen Curry picked the two teams from the 22-player pool of players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“Early, guys were making [defensive] plays,” Horford said. “Guys were making a point, they weren’t going to let it be a dunk fest.

Horford added, “Even last year and the year before, there was a lot of heat on how bad the game was. I felt like this game was, it was good.”

Irving, a five-time All-Star, also acknowledged how he and some of the players wanted to change the perception of the All-Star Game as being nothing more than a glorified lay-up line.

“I think we all took it kind of personal,” Irving said. “Individually we wanted to come out and be competitive. Last year it was (192-182), that’s just not as fun as communicating with guys that you don’t necessarily play with every single day, bouncing ideas off in the time-outs. It’s just that competitive fire that we all share.”

And then there’s the payday for winning.

Not only will various charities benefit from the game -- LeBron James’ charity of choice gets $350,000 because his team won and Steph Curry’s charity of choice gets $150,000 -- but the players on the winning team get a pretty nice check as well.

The winning team members each get $100,000 while the players on the losing team come away with $25,000.

“There was something that, something that we could look forward to if we got the win,” Irving acknowledged. “You know, they’ll probably bring up the cash prize, but . . . $100,000 to $25,000, I think everybody in this room would be doing the same things we were doing.”

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LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

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LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James had been mum on the process he used in selecting Team LeBron … until now.

Following Team LeBron’s 148-145 win over Team Steph, James revealed how he went about assembling is roster which included Boston’s Kyrie Irving who asked for a trade out of Cleveland last summer.

“I took Kevin (Durant) first, then I took (New Orleans) Anthony Davis, and I followed that with Kyrie and DeMarcus (Cousins).”

While this year’s all-star game had been billed as the ultimate pick-up game, it was clear that James put a tremendous amount of thought into assembling his team akin to what an NBA General Manager might do.

“I know who I like watching and I had a draft board,” James said. “I had a process. Some of it went to … it almost went according to plan. A couple of them fell through, but I was satisfied and happy with all the guys that I got.”

A reporter later asked James where was this draft board.

“Ain’t none of your business,” said James, grinning. “You’re going too far, man.”

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