BOSTON — Seemingly the only thing that has been stable for the Boston Celtics this season has been their instability.
They’ve contended with injuries throughout most of the campaign, which has thrown one wrench after another into their plans. With the postseason now in full swing, the C’s truly are in need of a stable presence.
In Sunday’s Game 1 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, Al Horford provided that.
It’s no secret that Horford generally isn’t known as a flashy talent, but that certainly doesn’t detract from his remarkable efficiency, which was on full display in the opening game. He recorded a double-double by scoring a team-high 24 points while grabbing 12 rebounds.
All the while, Horford was tasked often with guarding Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, forcing him to both guard in the post and out to the paint. That role was reversed as well, which ultimately played a role in getting Antetokounmpo to foul out late in overtime.
“We wanted to post (Horford),” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following the game. “We wanted to make him play in the post, make Giannis defend down there, and I thought Al did a good job. He earned all 14 free-throw attempts, I know that. He was really, really working to get to the line and really working to get position early.
“I thought Al battled,” Stevens continued. “I thought everybody on both sides looked a little gassed at the end of overtime, (but) I’m not sure anyone was more tired than Al, because he put in an incredible effort for us.”
Horford has cemented himself as a multi-tool player, being able to score one night while facilitating the next, all while diversifying his game to the point that he’s a legitimate scoring threat from the perimeter.
Because he’s able to do so much, Stevens emphasized the reliance the Celtics will have on Horford in the coming games.
“We’re gonna ride Al,” Stevens said. “He’s been unbelievable in being a facilitator for us all year. He has his moments because of the way we’re being defended where he gets to be more of a featured scorer. With where we are now, he’s going to be more of a featured scorer, and facilitate and guard Giannis and do everything.”
Stevens took it a step further with a joke before finishing his press conference.
“He’ll probably run our film session tomorrow.”
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Bucks Game 1:
— The Celtics’ win in Game 1 continued a pretty incredible trend of success in the first game of a series. Boston now is 51-16 at home in Game 1’s.
It also was the 43rd overtime game in Celtics postseason history. With the win, they climb to 23-20 in those contests.
— As has been the case most of the season, Marcus Morris was an important contributor off the bench. He hit multiple timely shots en route to 21 points to keep the Celtics in striking distance throughout the game.
Though Morris is in his eighth NBA season, he has relatively limited playoff experience, competing in just four postseason contests entering Sunday. With that in mind, he has displayed a quality track record, with his performance in Game 1 marking the third time in five career playoff games that he recorded at least 20 points.
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