The Boston Celtics need Al Horford now more than ever.
With injuries seeming to meet the team at every turn, Horford made his return to the floor in the Celtics’ 92-83 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday after missing the previous two games with an illness.
It’s not any skill in particular that the Celtics were lacking in Horford’s absence, rather the bevy of things he brings to the floor. With Kyrie Irving out with knee soreness, the C’s are lacking scoring. With Marcus Smart done for 6-8 weeks with a thumb injury, defense, especially on the perimeter, is lacking.
The list goes on.
In Friday’s game, Horford provided a little bit of everything in response. He scored 15 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out a trio of assists as well. He also was able to guard everywhere from the paint to the perimeter on defense. And with his leadership, there clearly was a bit more structure on the floor than there otherwise was on, say, Wednesday’s loss to the Washington Wizards.
The 31-year-old clearly knew where he needed to step up with so many absences. He shot a season-high 18 times from the field, knocking down six for 15 points. He also helped stagnate the Magic’s offense as well, posting a team-high plus-22 when he was on the floor.
By nature, these next few weeks inherently were going to require the Celtics to put on their proverbial hardhats. But with the spate of injuries now plaguing them, that is magnified in a big way.
It’s apparent, however, that having Horford back is a major addition for Boston.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Magic:
— Greg Monroe has proven to be a valuable addition to the Celtics’ depth. He tied the game-high in points Friday, tallying 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting over 21 minutes off the bench.
The big man has scored at least 10 points in five of his last seven games, averaging 12.1 points per contest while hitting 70.6 percent of his field goal attempts in the seven-game stretch.
— Terry Rozier was the other game leader with 17 points. In Irving’s absences this season, Rozier has proven he is a more than adept at starting at the point, logging a team-high 34 minutes of work, grabbing seven boards and dishing out five assists.
The 23-year-old now has scored 15 points in each of his last three games, the first time he has done so in his career. In that three-game stretch, he’s averaging 18 points per game with six rebounds and 5.3 assists.
And just how efficient has he been offensively? Take a look at these numbers:
— While the Celtics certainly are missing a few key defensive pieces, that was nary a worry against the Magic. In holding Orlando to just 83 points, Boston now has kept its opponents under 90 points on 14 occasions this season.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images
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