As the second-highest-paid player on the Celtics, Al Horford rightfully experiences pressure to perform. But the spotlight that will be on him when the Celtics take on the 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals promises to be the brightest of his career. It could serve as Horford’s coming out party as an All-Star caliber player in the eyes of those who reside outside of the basketball analytics community.
As my colleague John Tomase points out, Horford has a history of performing big in the playoffs. His performance to close out Game 7 against the Bucks might have been the best of his career, as he threw down a career-high 26 points while adding eight rebounds and three assists to lead the Celtics to victory. In two postseasons with Boston, Horford is averaging 15.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
With Jaylen Brown’s strained hamstring, the Celtics already depleted roster is now even more shallow. The offense will probably run though Horford, which it did in lengthy stretches against the Bucks. In the third quarter of Game 7, Horford hit all five of his shots for 10 points.
Horford averaged 18.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists and shot 58.8 percent from the floor during the series. Not so average at all.
Al Horford is engaged folks pic.twitter.com/qPQ1bwmHAU
— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) April 29, 2018
But Horford may even offer more value on the defensive side of the ball against Philly. Horford held Ben Simmons in check during the regular season, slowing down the dangerous 76ers offense. Philadelphia scored 88.4 points per 100 possessions when Horford guarded Simmons, and 100 points when anyone else did, according to ESPN.
Horford’s numbers against Joel Embiid, who dominated in three games against the Heat, are also strong. The 76ers averaged 12.8 fewer points per 100 possessions when Horford was paired up with imposing center.
The 76ers are rightfully favorited against the Celtics. They have a much stronger roster on paper and have won 21 of their last 21 games. They are rolling. Brad Stevens’ coaching brilliance almost certainly won’t be enough to close the gap.
But if “Average Al” turns into “Awesome Al” –– OK, that was awful, I’ll show myself the door –– then the C’s can give the 76ers a legitimate scare. The matchup is in Horford’s favor.
Full article @ Al Horford poised to have monster series against 76ers
Source: GreenStreet Blog