Turns out the Boston Celtics are a better team with a four-time All-Star in their lineup.
Al Horford was a one-man wrecking crew Saturday night in his first game since Oct. 29, scoring the game-winning basket with 1.4 seconds remaining to lift Boston to a 94-92 win over the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Horford finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals. Isaiah Thomas led the C’s with 24 points and eight assists, while Avery Bradley added 13 points and Jae Crowder tallied nine points and four rebounds in his return to the lineup.
Marcus Morris and Andre Drummond scored 24 and 20 points for the Pistons, respectively.
Here’s how this one went down.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Al Horford
FULL STRENGTH, FULL THROTTLE
The Celtics’ newcomers made their presence felt immediately, as Crowder and Horford both hit 3-pointers early in the first quarter to help Boston go in front. Horford tallied five points, five rebounds, two assists and a block in his first quarter back from a concussion.
Drummond helped keep the Pistons in it with nine points and five rebounds in the first 12 minutes, but Thomas drilled a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to put Boston up 30-23 at the break.
FREEDOM TO LAUNCH
Both teams relied heavily on the deep ball in the second quarter, taking a combined 11 3-pointers in a 12-minute span. The C’s made three from distance while the Pistons hit just two, but Detroit also did work inside, scoring 10 of its 24 second-quarter points in the paint.
The Pistons briefly took a one-point lead late in the frame, but a Horford jumper put Boston back in front, and the Celtics took a 50-47 lead into halftime.
WITHSTANDING THE ONSLAUGHT
Detroit found its stroke in the third quarter. Morris hit a pair of 3-pointers and dropped eight points in the frame, while the Pistons went on separate runs of 11-0 and 11-1 to open as much of a seven-point lead midway through the frame.
The Celtics found themselves trailing by just two entering the fourth, however, scoring seven of the third quarter’s final nine points and getting a Tyler Zeller layup right before the buzzer.
That late run proved useful for Boston, which regained the lead in the fourth thanks to Terry Rozier. The second-year guard drilled a 3-pointer and hit a pair of free throws to give the C’s a three-point lead with six minutes to go.
HORFORD TO THE RESCUE
The Celtics and Pistons traded blows down the stretch in an entertaining final two minutes, but it was Horford who saved the day for Boston.
After a pair of Thomas free throws put the Celtics up by three, Detroit’s Tobias Harris hit a corner 3-pointer to tie the score. On the next possession, though, Horford corralled an offensive rebound and hit a layup with 1.4 seconds remaining. The All-Star big man then sealed the deal on the other end, blocking an Aron Baynes jumper at the buzzer to seal the W.
PLAY OF THE NIGHT
Thomas ended the first quarter with a ridiculous turnaround 3-pointer after an offensive rebound.
The next stop on the Celtics’ three-game road trip is Minnesota, where they’ll battle the 4-7 Timberwolves on Monday night. Tip-off at Target Center is set for 8 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports Images