Celtics

Horford showing he's a vital cog in Celtics' success

Horford showing he's a vital cog in Celtics' success

BOSTON – When you talk to NBA folks about Al Horford, they speak of his leadership and willingness to do whatever is required in order for his team to be successful.

Often that has meant sacrificing parts of his game because it was in the best interest of the team.

But as we get deeper and deeper into this season, it’s becoming clearer that the Celtics need the "no-holds-back" Al Horford who tends to fill up the stat sheet in several categories and maybe just as important, significantly impacts winning.

Monday’s matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks was one of those games, a game in which Horford once again flirted with a triple-double in helping lead Boston to a 111-100 win over the Bucks.

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Horford continued to play at a highly efficient level, scoring 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting to go with nine rebounds and eight assists.

“He’s been really good,” said head coach Brad Stevens of Horford.

For the season, Horford is shooting 55.9 percent from the field along with connecting on a career-best 44.6 percent of his 3-pointers.

Horford's shooting touch has been red-hot lately, connecting on at least 53.3 percent of his shots from the field in each of Boston’s last five games.

“I think it’s just the work I’ve been putting in,” Horford said. “It’s starting to pay off for me.”

And the Celtics (21-4) who currently have the best record in the NBA.

As good as Boston has been thus far, players and coaches are unanimous in believing that they’ve only scratched the surface of this team’s potential.

And the play of Horford will have a lot to do with that growth.

“It’ll just continue to get better,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving.

As far as Horford is concerned, Irving added, “He’s just shooting the right shots and being aggressive, and him getting more comfortable with where his shots are coming from and being able to adjust on the fly. We want to be aggressive and he knows that.”

And maybe more important, he’s showing it with his play that has been a vital cog in the Celtics’ success this season which has not only padded their win total but also brought about increased respect from foes.

“They are a really good team and from start to finish they play hard,” said Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. “They play together so with a team like that, you have to be disciplined on defense and keep playing hard.”

Said Stevens: “He’s playing at a good level.”

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Podcast: Kyrie Irving discusses why he has not committed to the Celtics long term

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Podcast: Kyrie Irving discusses why he has not committed to the Celtics long term

1:00 - Kyrie Irving talked with Jackie MacMullan and discussed everything from how his knee feels to why he hasn’t committed to Boston long term, Our Early Edition crew discusses what he had to say.

7:50 - Marc Bertrand and Phil Perry break down the Patriots-Lions match up on Sunday, and debate whether the Lions have any shot of doing what the Jaguars did to the Patriots.

14:30 - Steve Buckley joins BST to discuss Chris Sale’s performance against the Indians.

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Kyrie Irving's comments to ESPN suggest he's happy in Boston

Kyrie Irving's comments to ESPN suggest he's happy in Boston

In a sit-down interview with Jackie MacMullan on ESPN.com, Kyrie Irving touched on a variety of subjects, primarily his optimism for the next few years, his health, beating the Golden State Warriors monolith, and those persitent rumors connecting him and Jimmy Butler to the New York Knicks.

Asked by MacMullan if he'd be disappointed if the Celtics didn't come away with a championship in 2019, Irving got right to brass tacks: "Can we beat Golden State in a seven-game series? Yes.''

And why so declarative?

"Because of who we have,'' Irving told MacMullan, "and what we're establishing here, not just for this season, but for hopefully for the next few years, something that's pretty special."

For his part, the five-time NBA All-Star and former NBA champ told MacMullan he's aware of the rumors of a shared interest between him and the disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves star of joining forces in New York, but that he hasn't talked with Butler at length since they were playing for USA Basketball in 2016.

"Who wouldn't be a part of this?" Irving told MacMullan, alluding to the Celtics' gleaming new practice facility in Brighton. "Who wouldn't want to be a part of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and Al Horford and Gordon Hayward? People keep saying, 'Why won't he commit to Boston?'

"Well, there are financial implications involved.''

Irving hasn't signed an extension, and could be in for a substantial payday in the summer of 2019 if all goes well. Irving says he's fine with the seemingly round-the-clock speculation about his future, saying, "I'm accepting it's going to be a constant story."

There's more good stuff to unpack that should get Celtics fans excited about the 2018-19 season. For one, he believes he's been the healthiest and strongest he's been in three years, and says he has a confidence in his lower body now that was absent in the 2017-18 season, as knee issues flared up again in the spring that shut him down for the playoffs.

For another, Irving doesn't appear to be afraid of the defending champion Warriors, who got even stronger this offseason with the surprising clearance-rack addition of DeMarcus Cousins, saying, "I've seen them up close. I've played them so many times. We've gone in a seven-game series [when I was in Cleveland], so I know what it takes."

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