Boston Celtics forward Al Horford found motivation from an unlikely source in Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.
Horford got an earful from a heckling Hawks fan courtside at State Farm Arena and the Celtics veteran, much like he did to Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo last year in the playoffs when he felt disrespected, taught the fan a lesson.
Quiet offensively most of the night, Horford drained a massive 3-pointer with 3:35 remaining to break a deadlock and help the Celtics close out a 128-120 victory on an 18-7 run. After hitting the clutch triple, Horford made sure to turn toward the fan behind Atlanta’s bench and appeared to get in a few words for himself.
“There was somebody — I’m not going to call him out. I appreciate it because he got me going,” Horford told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston postgame coverage. “He said some stuff there that I wasn’t very pleased with. I took it to heart. I was able to get that shot, so I appreciate him for talking trash to me. There’s some people you can talk trash to. Talk trash to me, probably not good for you.”
The heckling from the Hawks crowd certainly didn’t come as a surprise to Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who was thrilled to see Horford step up in that moment.
“We’ve been hearing it the whole playoffs, but definitely tonight,” Smart told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston postgame coverage. “We didn’t expect nothing less. We were hearing their crowd on their home floor. Al obviously used to play here. So, it was big for him. It was big for us and we’re happy for him.”
Horford finished with 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. It was the only time the 36-year-old scored in double figures in the series.
And the banter between him and the Hawks fan serves as a reminder that in the playoffs, nearly anything can ignite Horford to an impactful performance.