How Al Horford's pursuit of NBA title is motivating Celtics in 2023 playoffs

How Horford's pursuit of NBA title is motivating Celtics in 2023 playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics don't need any extra motivation to win the 2023 NBA Finals.

The pain of their defeat to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 championship series remains fresh. For the last 10-11 months, the goal for the franchise has been to return to the NBA Finals and finish the job after coming up two wins short last season.

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Each player wants to win the title for their own personal journey. These players have dedicated a huge portion of their lives to the pursuit of the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

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But they also understand that some guys might not have a ton more opportunities to enjoy the sweet taste of championship victory. Al Horford is 36 years old, and even though the Celtics forward remains a quality player and a key piece to the team's success on both ends of the floor, he's running out of chances to win his first title.

Winning one for Horford is definitely something on the Celtics' minds as they prepare to begin the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at TD Garden.


"That's a huge piece for us. Al has given this league so much," Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon told reporters Tuesday. "He’s given this organization so much, these guys so much. I think a big piece for us is to want to see him go out on top, go out with a championship, go out with a ring, because he’s more deserving than anybody."

The Celtics must be ready to go right from the opening tip in Game 1. The Heat often start fast, evidenced by the fact that they've won five consecutive Game 1s, including the conference finals opener versus the Celtics last season. At one point during practice Tuesday, Horford told his teammates they needed to lock in a little more.

"The guy we've followed all season, our leader, is Al Horford. He's going to continue to lead us," Brogdon said. "There was a point today in practice where guys were — it was a little light, you know, practice was light and guys were a little loose. Al brought us together in the middle of practice and just told us to tighten it up. I think it’s those constant reminders from our leader that’s going to help us stay poised, start the series poised, and really lock in."


Horford's leadership and experience have been very valuable for the Celtics, especially with the franchise's two young stars.

"You know you have a special leader when guys like Jayson Tatum, a top-five player in the world, and Jaylen Brown, another top player in the world, listen to him," Brogdon said. “They're quiet. They listen to him. They want his feedback. They want his leadership. So Al’s been that special leader for us all season."

Tip-off for Game 1 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.