36 Going on 25: Horford’s Youthful Burst Sparks W Over Dubs
BOSTON — Al Horford lived up to his reputation for being in the big games on Thursday night, giving his best effort of the season in Boston’s most anticipated game of the season.
The 36-year-old Celtics big man turned back the clock in an NBA Finals rematch against the Golden State Warriors with a 20-point, 10-rebound and three-block effort as he assisted both setting the tone early and closing late in a 121-118 overtime win at TD Garden.
After missing the season opener between the defending conference champions, Horford was motivated to step onto the court and help his team make a statement. Although this game was only one of 82, it seemed to have added significance due to the history between the two teams and the bitter taste left in Boston’s mouth after their loss in the Finals and their loss on December 10 in San Francisco.
“I wanted to come here and I wanted to win,” Horford said after his 37-minute effort. “I really wanted to win, absolutely. It’s a regular season game, it’s just a game, it’s over, but it’s an important game.
You could feel how important this game was for Horford with how hard he came through the door. He abused the Warriors at the position early, scoring a game-high 10 points in the first quarter while shooting a perfect 4-on-4 from inside the restricted area. He was also active on the glass and played a critical role off the ball setting up screens for his teammates.
“I just thought he brought a different type of physique and mindset to the game, especially the way he started,” interim head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “And he did great things when it comes to offensive rebounds. I thought his selection versus the switch was really good. And then I felt when we went to him in the five, his ability to space and make just the right play. And so I thought he helped us get started by getting off to a good start with his state of play. spirit, and we needed it. He was tall.
Horford also delivered the biggest defensive highlight of the game in the first quarter when he chased down Jordan Poole in transition to eliminate what would have been a quick slam.
“He came out and looked like he was 25 today,” said Jayson Tatum, who finished with a career-high 34 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and three steals. “He came out and set the tone. He really did. And we all kind of followed that the rest of the night.
Horford was silent for the second and third frames, during which he scored a total of four points. But he came to life when it mattered most in critical time, delivering a corner 3 with 90 seconds left in the fourth quarter to pull the Celtics within a point of the Warriors, then knocking down another corner 3 to put the Cs ahead by four. with two minutes remaining in overtime.
That final 3-pointer gave Horford its first 20-10 double-double since Game 3 of last spring’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. It also made him the fifth player over 36 in Celtics history to record 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game, joining Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, John Havlicek, Shaquille O’Neal and Robert Parish.
Horford has had a habit of stepping up in big games in the past, especially against the Warriors. In Game 1 of the 2022 Finals, he scored 26 points on a career-best 6-of-8 shooting from long range while leading Boston to a 120-108 victory on the road. He finished averaging 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 62.5 percent from 3-point range over that six-game series.
Thursday night was more of the same.
The oldest player on the pitch was also the most impactful player on the pitch, as Horford played as if he was 36 and 25.