Celtics

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

CLEVELAND – For about 30 or so seconds following Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland, Al Horford was not Al Horford.

He’s a passionate player, but seldom is it on display in as outwardly a fashion as it was following their Game 3 victory.

In an interview with CSN’s Abby Chin after the game, Horford tried to put into words what the victory meant.

But the aggressive high-fives to teammates passing him by, the intense way he looked into the camera … that spoke volumes about what this game meant to the veteran big man.

“It’s big, it’s big!” Horford said in between high-fives with Jonas Jerebko and other Celtics who came past him.

“A lot of people doubting us out there!” Horford said, staring intently into the camera as if he was saying, ‘yeah, I’m talking about you!’”

Less than 24 hours after the game, Horford’s emotions had cooled down considerably.

“It was an emotional game,” he told CSN following a short practice at the Q Arena on Monday. “Just, having to hear … since the blowout, everybody counting us out. Everybody really believing that it was over.”

The Celtics came into Game 3 having lost both Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 57 points which includes the worst playoff loss (Game 2, 130-86) in franchise history.

So with that as the backdrop, knowing full well that no one outside of their locker room gave them an ice cube in hell’s chance at winning Game 3, the victory brought about a level of satisfaction that Celtics players had seldom experienced before if at all.

“The emotions at that time were high for our group,” Horford admitted. “And it shows what we’ve been talking about all year, a resilient group that has a lot of fight in them. We were hit with some adversity with Isaiah being down but our group responded.”

Thomas re-aggravated a right hip injury in Game 2, and was later ruled out for the rest of the playoffs. 

After falling behind 77-56 in the third quarter, the Celtics closed out the third with a 26-10 run to come within 87-82 going into the fourth quarter. During the run, Marcus Smart had 11 points which turned out to be equal to LeBron James’ scoring output … for the entire game.

This is Horford's 10th NBA season, all of which have included a trip to the postseason.

That, combined with having won a pair of national championships when he played at the University of Florida, serves as a reminder that the 30-year-old has been on the winning ledger of big games before.

But even he acknowledged Sunday’s Game 3 win was … different.

“I have had plenty of moments like this,” Horford said. “But this was definitely emotional. This was very emotional, exciting, on the road, no one really giving us any chance. To be able to come through like that, it just felt great. I’ve been part of emotional wins, but this one was a special one.”

That was evident in Horford’s energy-charged, post-game comments.

“Heart! Heart! This team got heart!” he yelled. “We got beat bad (in Game 2), but it’s all about how you rebound!”

And we get that message, loud and clear!

Boston Sports Breakfast Pod: Isaiah Thomas returns as Nuggets top Celtics

Boston Sports Breakfast Pod: Isaiah Thomas returns as Nuggets top Celtics

It's an emotional night at the Garden and it ends with a thud for the Celtics, who lost to the Nuggets after Isaiah Thomas is saluted in the first quarter.

1:26 - Brian Scalabrine and Kyle Draper break down the Celtics' 114-105 loss to the Denver Nuggets and discuss everything from the game that didn’t have to do with Isaiah.

5:54 - We hear from I.T. after the game as he touches on a variety of topics from his reaction to the tribute video he received to the possibility of him returning to Boston.

11:50 - Speaking of a return to the Green for Thomas, A. Sherrod Blakely thinks that Isaiah could be back with the Celtics as soon as next season. Him, Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek debate if I.T. would be able to handle a lesser role with the team.

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Brad Stevens-Isaiah Thomas bond as strong as ever

Brad Stevens-Isaiah Thomas bond as strong as ever

BOSTON -- As the Celtics and Nuggets locker rooms cleared out, Isaiah Thomas was doing what he has done quite a bit of when he was in Boston and since he left - talking with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

The two have a connection that - even after Thomas left and is now on his third team in less than two years - is extremely tight. 

No surprise Stevens was among the biggest fans of the video tribute for Thomas following the first timeout in the first quarter of Denver's 114-105 victory on Monday night.

“Well-deserved ten times over,” said Stevens when asked about the reaction of the fans to Thomas’ video. “You know, like I can’t say enough great things about Isaiah. I could sit up here all night and certainly that video tribute was great. Our people did a great job on it; it was very  - it was emotional and it was - it could’ve lasted a lot longer. So, greatly appreciative of our time together and it was…I was glad that he got that moment.”

Celtics forward Marcus Morris echoed similar sentiments. 

“Great moment, man, for a guy like that who’s put his heart and soul into everything he did,” Morris told reporters after the game. “He deserved every second of that. Wish him nothing but the best down the road, just happy to see him out there.”

Thomas, who returned to the TD Garden for the first time healthy enough to play since being traded in 2017, described the tribute video as “special” before adding, “It was emotional. I almost cried. Yeah, almost. That was everything. That meant a lot.”

The same can be said for his relationship with Stevens, one in which the two have stayed in touch with conversations and text messages being exchanged according to Thomas, on a monthly basis. 

“He’s always somebody that sends a really nice text no matter what they’re going through or what I’m going through,” Thomas said of Stevens. “We stay in contact. He’s a big part of my career; the best coach I’ve ever been coached by.”

In Thomas’ two-plus seasons with the Celtics, he went from being a reserve who could provide an offensive lift off the bench, to becoming a two-time All-Star who evolved into the face of the franchise for his clutch shooting, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But a hip injury in the team’s 2017 playoff run sidelined him for the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals, and he was part of a blockbuster trade later that summer that shipped him off to Cleveland while Boston got six-time All-Star Kyrie Irving in return. 

Irving, who had spent his entire NBA career in Cleveland before demanding a trade in the summer of 2017 that eventually landed him in Boston, can understand the deep-rooted connections that Thomas feels with the Boston community. 

“You have a plan where you'd like to stay somewhere then the organization moves in another direction,” Irving told reporters. “We respect all those guys who are in the top positions to make those decisions but you can just see that the connection that guys have with fans that they build in the community sticks with them for the rest of their careers and the fans support them for the rest of their careers, for the most part at least. It’s just awesome. 

Irving added, “It’s well documented what he’s done here. For me, it’s a unique position because I’m the one that got traded for him. I just want to see him do well. We got drafted the same year. He’s dealt with a lot of BS in his career, just trying to be the underdog all of the time instead of getting the opportunity he deserves. Boston gave him that opportunity and he flourished. He’ll be back at the top of his game in no time. You don’t ever got to worry about a talented guy like that finding a job in the NBA and making an impact somewhere.”

And while Thomas has made it clear that his focus at the moment is doing all he can to help the Nuggets go deep as possible in the postseason (their win over Boston made them playoff-eligible for the first time since 2013), Thomas has made it clear that he’s more than open to the idea of coming back to Boston. 

“Why not? If the opportunity presents itself, that would be everything,” Thomas said. “I’m a Nugget right now. I’m happy to be here. The Nuggets organization has taken me in with open arms and given me a chance to work my way back on my time; I can’t thank them enough. But if that opportunity is there [to come back to Boston], I’m open.”

And that opportunity he speaks of includes more than just a shot at playing, but playing for Stevens, who remains an integral part of Thomas’ life.

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