All signs point to Al Horford’s big role in big win

March 2, 2017 GMT

For the fifth consecutive game, Al Horford was held to single digits in scoring.

That didn’t stop him from being instrumental in the Celtics’ 103-99 victory against the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers last night at the Garden. With 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Horford finished the game a point shy of a triple-double.

“I think the biggest thing for me is, I’ve always talked about this: Impact winning,” Horford said. “I’m always trying to find a way to be effective. I didn’t necessarily get as many shots up (last night) but I was able to impact the game in other areas. On defense and making sure I’m getting other guys shots.”

The forward’s defense against the East’s highest-scoring offense is what stood out to coach Brad Stevens.

“Even at halftime, (Horford) was 1-for-4 for the floor and we thought he was great,” Stevens said. “I think that is a testament to how he was playing. He was really aggressive. His defense was really good. (Tristan) Thompson is a hard guy to bang with all night but I thought that Al did a good job. And then we had our bigs on LeBron (James) a lot, too, and he and others did as well as they could.”


The result was the C’s first win of the season against the only team above them in the conference standings.

“This is the third time playing Cleveland. We played them tough the first two times but they beat us, flat out,” Horford said. “So it was good to be able to get a win here at home in front of our fans.”

The difference lies in the defense. In the teams’ first two games, Cleveland put up 128 and 124 points, respectively, on its way to wins. The C’s came up with stops in the third meeting.

Horford is still searching for his first triple double as a Celtic. It would have been made sweeter had it come against the reigning NBA champions, but he won’t sweat the personal stats.

“Us getting this win was most important,” he said. “It would have been nice, but I’m happier that I got the win. I wouldn’t be so happy if I got it and we lost.”

When time was winding down in the one-score game, Isaiah Thomas came through again for the Celtics. Mr. Fourth Quarter lit up the scoreboard late, ultimately giving the C’s a lead they would not relinquish and finishing with a game-high 31 points. Horford only finished with nine points, but Thomas didn’t understate the forward’s impact on the signature win.

“That’s what we signed (Horford) to do,” Thomas said. “He makes plays, high basketball IQ, he can score, he can pass, he can rebound and the way he played tonight, we need him to play like that for us to win. He does a lot for us that doesn’t even go on the stat sheet.”