BOSTON – Al Horford gets a lot of praise for his ability to stretch the floor as well as score around the basket.
But four games into this season, we have seen him show some serious versatility as a defender.
In the last two games alone, we have seen him defend Philadelphia’s 6-foot-10 point-forward Ben Simmons effectively, then switch out and limit their all-everything big man Joel Embiid.
Horford was back at it on Tuesday night, delivering one of the better defensive performances you’ll see in containing New York’s Kristaps Porzingis who was a non-factor in Boston’s 110-89 win on Tuesday.
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Porzingis, who scored 30-plus points in New York’s first two games this season, was limited to just 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field.
“A lot of names get thrown around, rightfully so, in the defensive talk around the league,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “There’s a lot of really good defenders, but Al’s right up there and doesn’t always get mentioned, and that’s okay with Al. He’s okay with just contributing to winning whether he gets talked about or not.”
While Horford’s defensive success of late might come as a surprise to some, the 6-foot-10 big man has been among the better defensive bigs in the league most of his career.
The reason it’s more noticeable of late is because the Celtics have him paired in the frontcourt with Aron Baynes who often takes on the opposing team’s center while Horford defends power forwards.
“It gives me a little more freedom on defense,” Horford said.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-89 win over the New York Knicks.
The Knicks had no answer for Brown who had a monster game. That, and the Celtics getting the win, made for a pretty awesome 21st birthday for him. He would finish with 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting.
He gets a lot of grief for not putting up bigger numbers, but these are the games that truly define Horford. His defense on Kristaps Porzingis was about as good as you’ll see on the talented 7-foot-3 big man. Horford also managed a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds along with five assists.
With a second unit consisting of three rookies, a guy that was out of the league last season (Shane Larkin) and a career backup (Terry Rozier), Tatum carried the scoring load that really put some serious separation between the Celtics and the Knicks. He would finish with a career-high 22 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter when the Celtics outscored the Knicks 24-16.
He’s looking more and more comfortable in figuring out how best to get his scoring, get others involved and do so while limiting his turnovers. Against the Knicks he had 20 points to go with seven assists with only three turnovers.
Boston’s Aron Baynes and Al Horford delivered a defensive 1-2 punch that kept Porzingis under wraps all game (Semi Ojeleye had some nice defensive moments off the bench defensively, too). After dropping 30-plus points in each of New York’s first two games, the Celtics limited Porzingis to just 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting which included him missing 11 of his first 12 shot attempts.=