Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Al Horford on his Game 4 performance: 'I understood the moment, what we needed'

The Celtics trailed by as many as 10 in the second half against the Milwaukee Bucks before a fourth quarter comeback was sparked by Al Horford, who many believe saved the season in the team's 116-108 Game 4 win to even the series 2-2.

The veteran big went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field for 16 points in the final period, as the C's were in danger of falling 3-1 in this best-of-7 semifinals matchup. But it was Horford's dunk on Giannis Antetokounmpo that was the play of night, as he pump-faked a 3-point attempt before driving to the hoop for a furious slam over the former NBA MVP.
"It was one of those plays," Horford said in his postgame presser Monday night. "I got the pass. He closed out. I've been shooting that a lot, and I figured I just drive it, and I drove. Took it in. Big play, obviously, very emotional and I think for our group it really got us going even more at that point."
Horford's and-1 dunk capped off a 10-0 run for the Celtics, despite earning a technical foul for contact made to Anteteokounmpo's face. However, many would agree that was payback for an earlier play in the first half between the two forwards.

Antetokounmpo beat Horford to the rim on a dunk, resulting in a staredown from the Bucks All-Star while saying some words that the Celtics big man didn't necessarily hear, but the message was sent loud and clear.
"I don't really know what he said to me, but the way he was looking at me and the way he was going about it, really didn't sit well with me," Horford said after the win. "At that point, I think just something switched with me in the game."
Horford finished the night with 30 points (playoff career-high) on 11-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-7 from deep, to go along with eight rebounds in 42 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum also netted 30 points, as the two led the Celtics to outscore the Bucks in the final frame 43-28.
"Playoffs are emotional; they're intense, and tonight things weren't going our way," Horford said. "They were hard there, in the third for a while. Smart kept talking in the huddles, just kind of kept telling us to stay with it. Definitely just a lot of emotions at that point."
Tatum, who struggled in Game 3 Saturday and early on in Game 4, snapped out of it by the fourth quarter, going 9-of-11 from the floor as the Celtics closed out a pivotal win on a 14-2 run.
"It's kind of contagious; everybody feels it, Horford added. "It motivates everyone when any of us have any of those types of plays. At that point, we just wanted to keep playing."
Despite Horford also having a good performance in Game 3, his game-tying layup was a quarter of a second late after the final buzzer as the Celtics fell 103-101. If the 35-year old wasn't already motivated enough to have and even bigger impact, Antetokounmpo's antics fueled it even more so.
"We all understood the importance of this game," Horford said. "We felt at the end of Game 3 we were in position to win the game, and we didn't. I was just really locked in. I understood the moment, what we needed to do as a group. I really just did whatever it took tonight. It was one of those type of nights."
The Celtics will look to take 3-2 series lead when they host the Bucks tonight at TD Garden. TNT will have the tip-off at 7:00 ET.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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