It’s in high-pressure games where Boston Celtics forward Al Horford tends to thrive, and he didn’t disappoint on Monday night in Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Horford was instrumental in helping the Celtics overcome an 11-point, third-quarter deficit and secure a 116-108 road victory at the Fiserv Forum to even up the best-of-seven series at two-all. Horford led the way by netting a postseason career-best 30 points on 11-for-14 shooting in the win.
It wasn’t just Horford’s offensive production that made a difference, though. For Horford, who is in his 15th year in the NBA, it was the veteran leadership he brought to the Celtics which drew a ton of praise from those around him.
“It was huge four us. We love Al. He’s the best vet we’ve ever had. Best vet I’ve ever had,” Marcus Smart said. “He comes in, and it never changes with him. Things going bad or good, he’s going to be him and nine times out of ten it’s going to work out in our favor. It’s very much needed from him and he came through big for us and helped us secure this win tonight.”
The Celtics traded for the 35-year-old Horford, who spent three seasons in a previous stint with the organization, this past offseason after Horford played the last two seasons for the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder, respectively.
While not at the peak of his physical powers anymore, Horford’s steadying presence and wealth of experience has made a major impact, especially in the playoffs, and was key in getting the Celtics within two wins of reaching the Eastern Conference finals.
“He’s been a calming influence throughout the whole year,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “A veteran who has been there done that. (Been on) a lot of playoff teams that have gone really far, made really big runs. He’s a veteran of our group and has done that all year. We know he’s been great throughout training camp, early in the season and he’s carried that to the playoffs and almost took another step in the playoffs.
“So, guys out, Rob (Williams), guys in foul trouble, he’s called upon to score a little bit more tonight. He’s always the most vocal guy. Every time I come into the timeout he’s giving instruction and settling everyone down.”