After 15 seasons and 141 playoff games, Boston Celtics forward Al Horford is poised to shed an ignominious record.
Entering Sunday, no player in NBA history had appeared in as many playoff games as Horford without making it to the NBA Finals. That's about to change following Boston's 100-96 win over the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, with Horford set to formally bury the record on Thursday when the Celtics face the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.
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"I'm just so excited to be back as a Celtic and in this position," Horford told NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin after the game. "It feels great. It's a lot of hard work. A lot of years working toward this opportunity. I'm just so grateful. Grateful of these guys, watching these guys grow up, it's unbelievable."
Horford, who turns 36 on Friday, was originally drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the third overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Now in his 15th season, Horford has been to the playoffs 13 times, including his rookie year with the Hawks, when he was eliminated by the eventual-champion Celtics in the first round in seven games.
He'd been to the conference finals three times before this season, once with Atlanta and twice with Boston, but hadn't broken through before tonight.
Horford may have had only five points on 2 for 9 shooting in Game 7, but brought down a game-high 14 rebounds and as always, made his presence felt on the defensive side of the floor.
"Nobody deserves it more," Jaylen Brown said. "His energy, his demeanor, coming in every day and being a professional, taking care of his body, being a leader, I'm proud to be able to share this moment with a veteran, a mentor, a brother, a guy like Al Horford."
It was a difficult week for Horford, playing through the death of his grandfather earlier in the week, but he'll now have a chance to play for a championship for the first time since he won back-to-back NCAA titles with the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007.
Paul Millsap, who entered the NBA a year before Horford, assumes the title of most postseason games without a Finals appearance at 130. Joe Johnson, who memorably played in one game for the Celtics earlier this season after having not appeared in an NBA game since 2018, is now second on the list at 120.
"When he came back, it gave us a sense of security," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said of Horford. "He's selfless. Al could care less about the numbers. He cares about the wins and his team."