BOSTON – The way Terry Rozier saw it, Al Horford was having a Hot Tub Time Machine moment, playing with a different kind of bounce and energy akin to what you might envision a younger Al Horford bringing to the game.
Actually, Horford’s game is more forward-looking than anything else, showcasing his ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor which includes scoring around the rim as well as from 3-point range - the latter being something that he did not do much of during the early stages of his NBA career.
And his play was instrumental in Boston’s 95-94 win over Toronto on Sunday.
Horford had a team-high 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting in the Celtics victory which extended their winning streak to 12 straight.
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The success has been about the contributions of many, but on Sunday it was all about Horford who returned to the lineup after missing the last two games while still in the league’s concussion protocol program.
"It felt good,” Horford said of being back. “I was happy to be out there with my teammates. It’s hard for me to sit on the sidelines and watch; just going through a lot of stuff, a lot of flashbacks to last year.”
Horford suffered a concussion last season that led to him missing nine games.
“I try to stay calm and take it day to day, do everything I needed to do,” said Horford who according to nba.com/stats, contested a team-high 12 shots against the Raptors. “I’m happy to finally be back on the court.”
So are the Celtics who are still trying to continue finding ways to win as key players suffer various setbacks.
They’ve already lost Gordon Hayward (ankle) for the season. Horford just got back after a couple games due to a concussion. And Kyrie Irving suffered a minor facial fracture in the win over Charlotte on Friday that kept him out of Sunday’s game and could potentially keep him sidelined for additional games this week.
Horford getting back on the court sooner than the concussion he suffered last season, will allow him to continue building off of what has been an impressive start to the season.
“He missed a couple of days there, and wanted to make sure he was in really good shape before he came back,” said coach Brad Stevens. “But he’s done so much for us for so long; nothing that he does on the court surprises me.”
The big thing with Horford has been his level of aggression which has been at a much higher level this season than what we saw a year ago.
“He brought that spirit back,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “Al’s a very good offensive player that can go create for himself and others, and when we needed a bucket, we just ran the plays to him and he created for us.”
Rozier had similar sentiments about Horford.
“He’s a big help,” Rozier said. “He’s going to get you open, he’s going to get himself open. He’s playing young again . . . He’s scoring a lot. He’s playing good. He’s playing real good.”
When told of Rozier’s comment about him “playing young” again, Horford chuckled about it.
“I don’t know if young Al Horford played like this,” Horford said which drew a few chuckles. “It’s many years of working on my game and try to play this new way. This is the style that the NBA is shifting towards. It took me a couple years to get comfortable and play like this."
Horford added, “A young Al Horford couldn’t shoot 3s.”
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