Early in the second round of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks star, rumbled to the ground and dunked the ball at the Al Horford, 35-year-old Boston Celtics venue. another. with slowing it.
The Bucks have all the energy in the game and have been on the verge of putting the Celtics on the ropes in the series.
And then Antetokounmpo, two-time Most Valuable Player Award winner, counts as a mistake. He followed his dunk by watching the daggers at Horford and got a talent for criticism. Horford looked right back, nodding his head a few times.
“The way he was looking at me and the way he was going he never sat down with me,” Horford told reporters after the game. that only something changes with me. “
Horford has become one of the greatest performers of his career. He scored 16 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Celtics to a 116-108 victory that tied the needles, 2-2.
At least two of its points are a bit of direct payment from Antetokounmpo: a dunk in the fourth quarter across the star Bucks who saw the most reserved Horford release screaming.
In Horford’s previous 131 playoff games, he never scored 30 points in a single game. In doing so, however, he would have saved the Celtics season.
“We love Al, ”said Celtics manager Marcus Smart. “He is the best veterinarian we have ever been. vet better than I ever have. You know, he comes in and he never changes with it. Things can be bad or good, they can be. nine times out of 10, it would work for us”
Monday’s performance made all the difference by the fact that entering the 2020-21 season, Horford was in the basketball wilderness.
He recently completed a disappointing season with the Philadelphia 76ers after signing a contract worth more than $ 100 million. Horford, a five-time All-Star, has been referred to the Oklahoma City Thunder construction, which spent little time on the old venue in his mid-30s. The Sixers will need to submit a pre-selection form only to get Thunder to decide on the deal. And then Horford was shut down in the middle of the season. Not because he was injured or playing poorly. But because it does not fit in Oklahoma City.
Brad Stevens, the new Celtics president, has replaced Kemba Walker, another former All-Star with a low-profile product last year, for Horford, the player he coached in Boston for three seasons. season from 2016 to 2019.
It was thought to be of little impact. What makes the past-it-important, slow-paced space give young Celtics looking to get more athletic?
Very little, it turns out. Horford started 69 games for Boston in the regular season, supporting one of the best defensive teams. In the first round against the Nets, Horford averaged 13 points and 7.5 rebounds and shot 60 percent on 3-pointers.
““I feel like last summer, I understood I had to take it to the next level,” Horford said. “We really started with summer and just continued the season. And now these are the times I want to be a part of”
His revival, he added, was simple: “That is by sitting at home. That is by watching the playoffs. That comes from not knowing what my future holds and just hoping for the opportunity to be in a place like this. “
Against the Bucks, Horford was the first defender of Antetokounmpo. It was a tough challenge than expected: Antetokounmpo could not easily harass Horford in the colors he could defend most. And Horford, even at this stage in his career, was a cell phone enough to stop Antetokounmpo from speeding over his long journey.
Antetokounmpo scored 34 points on Monday, but he needed 32 shots to get them.
Horford’s biggest asset, this time, was his assassination. On Monday, Horford made 5 of his 7 3-point trials. The rest of the team to shoot 9 to 30. In many cases, Horford the basket comes when he looks like the Bucks on the verge of pulling.
For the Celtics to win this series, they need to continue to hit their deep jump because they did not get into the basket due to the defensive edge of Antetokounmpo, formerly defending block player of the year, and Brook Lopez, the Bucks. ‘towering center.
In Game 2, the Celtics shot 20 of 43 behind the 3-foot line – the specialty 46.5 percent. They won the game in a blowout. With Horford hitting his shots in Game 4, the Celtics were able to reach the ground again, and that allowed Jayson Tatum to find more space in the colors. He returned from the unpopular Game 3 to match Horford with 30 points on Monday, including several key baskets below.
There are still some red flags, however, for Boston in the series. Two of his victories were attributed to poor performances – a poor 3-point shot, and Horford’s brilliance in Game 4 – and the Bucks still had the best players of both teams. in Antetokounmpo.
Milwaukee, due to its small size, also has access to more convenient roads. That leads to more crime, and he trusts the police called fouls.
And other Boston athletes need shots. Unlike Horford, 35, will be able to make Monday fast, whether in shots or matches. And in many games, if Horford is the best player on the Boston team with Tatum and Jaylen Brown, something goes wrong.
Not just Monday night.
“Al, man, ”Smart said, making more praise for Horford. “He has been doing this for a very long time, and he understands what he brings to the game and the team. And we want to get to the end of it every night we can. So it’s big, big, big, big, big, and I mean this, the big key, Al stays with us. “