BOSTON -- Al Horford played a little more than 28 minutes in the 129-120 win over Atlanta, the fewest of any of the Celtics’ starters.
While it’s unlikely Horford will log lower-than-usual minutes in the remaining games of the regular season, he will be under a “strategic rest” plan that will limit him in the remaining regular season games.
"We have three or four games already picked out over the next 12 that Al will not play," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "And so if he feels like tomorrow he doesn't feel good, he won't play Monday [against Denver]. We'll make sure we manage that. He's felt great all the way through this."
Horford’s minutes were reduced on Saturday due to some knee soreness that, after the game, Horford said was unrelated to the knee issues he had earlier this season that forced him to miss eight games.
Still, there was enough concern with the soreness on Saturday to the point where Stevens wasn’t sure if Horford would return in the second half.
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“I was trying to get through [the game] without him,” Stevens said. “And he told me with about nine minutes in the fourth that he felt better for whatever reason and was good to go.”
But it became clear to Stevens that if the Celtics were indeed going to hold on and beat this scrappy Hawks team, he was going to have little choice but to throw Horford back in the game.
Said Stevens: “My hope was not to put him back in but that stretch from the end of the third to the middle of the fourth was not good for us.”
Boston led 105-92 after the third quarter, but the Hawks closed out the quarter with a 14-2 run and began the fourth with a 7-1 spurt which cut the Celtics lead to 106-99 with 8:53 to play.
Atlanta eventually tied it at 112, but Boston finished things off with a 17-8 run to pull away.
And Horford’s impact?
He missed both of his shot attempts from the field in the fourth but he grabbed four rebounds along with dishing out a pair of assists along with having a plus/minus of +6 in the fourth, which was tops on the team.
For the game, Horford had nine points, six rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.
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And as important as it is for the Celtics to try and finish out the regular season playing well, Boston has been consistent in its belief that they will not sacrifice someone being ready to roll for the playoffs to pick up a regular season win or two.
That’s why, the way Horford sees it, him missing three or four games among the remaining regular-season matchups is more precautionary than anything else.
“The amount of games we’ve played at the level we’ve been playing at...making sure I’m at my best,” Horford said before adding, “we’re all at our best, come playoff time.”
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