Basketball
Al Horford's dominant performance on both ends of the floor leads Celtics play

"I think that Coach does a good job preparing us and, as a group, we've done a good job," said Horford.

Oct.27 - SportLand: Earlier this week, after a stretch of games in which Celtics big man Al Horford had bottled up the likes of Kristaps Porzingis, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, Boston coach Brad Stevens wanted to put the spotlight on a player who would never request it for himself.

"A lot of names get thrown around, rightfully so, in the defensive talk around the league. There's a lot of really good defenders, but Al's up there and doesn't always get mentioned, and that's OK with Al," Stevens said after Tuesday's win over the New York Knicks. "I think that he's kind of proven that he's OK with just contributing to winning and whether he gets talked about or not. But he was great on Simmons on Friday [and] he was unbelievable [Tuesday] on Porzingis."

So when the Celtics trekked to Milwaukee on Thursday night for a rematch with a Bucks team that had spoiled Boston's home opener, Stevens deployed Horford with a single mission: Do what no team has done this season and at least slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo.

According to SPNF, a cursory look at the box score won't tell the full story, considering Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 28 points. But that's nearly nine points less than his scoring average entering the game, and Horford made Antetokounmpo work for his points on 10-of-21 shooting (47.6 percent); the Greek Freak was shooting 66 percent from the floor entering the game.

In typical Horford fashion, he downplayed his efforts, both crediting Marcus Smart for suggesting he wander beyond the 3-point line on offense and praising the coaches for putting him in position to make Antetokounmpo work on the defensive end.  

"I think that Coach does a good job preparing us and, as a group, we've done a good job," said Horford. "[Teammate Aron] Baynes has been unbelievable, because I can get out there and chase those guys around and know that if I get in a jam, he's got my back there to kind of contest and stuff. It's just been nice to see, but I feel like all our guys have stepped up to the challenge, and we've done a good job defending."

 

Horford would have earned Stevens' gold star just for his defensive exploits, but Boston's veteran big man added a season-high 27 points on 11 of 14 shooting (78.6 percent) to propel Boston to a 96-89 win at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Thirteen of those points came in the third quarter when Horford caught fire, including from beyond the arc, where he made 4 of 5 3-pointers overall on the night.