Why Al Horford was the X-factor in Celtics' Game 1 win over Nets

·3 min read

After Nets guard's call-out, Horford lets his play do the talking originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON -- Al Horford kept his response understated.

When asked how he felt about Nets guard Bruce Brown saying Brooklyn should "attack" Horford and Daniel Theis with Robert Williams out due to injury, Horford responded:

"I'm excited to get going. My stuff gets done on the floor."

Fast forward to Sunday's Game 1 at TD Garden, where Horford delivered a stellar all-around performance that was a big reason why Boston emerged with a 115-114 win.

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Horford racked up 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, going 2-for-2 from 3-point range while playing over 41 minutes of playoff basketball at age 35. He also grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds -- six on the offensive end -- to help the Celtics win the rebound battle, 43-29.

"I think the difference probably was offensive rebounds," Nets star Kevin Durant said after the game. "It's hard to pinpoint one thing, but ... the rebounding: 43 to 29 on the boards is always tough to overcome, especially when they have 14 offensive rebounds."

The Celtics benefited from Andre Drummond getting in early foul trouble, as the Nets big man finished with just four rebounds in less than 18 minutes of game time. But Horford's work on the offensive glass helped generate 14 second-chance shot attempts for Boston compared to Brooklyn's five.

"Their offensive rebounding, (us not) limiting them to one shot, one possession -- I feel like that's what really gave them some life toward the end of the game," Nets guard Kyrie Irving admitted.

The last of Horford's 15 rebounds came with 12 seconds remaining, as he snatched Durant's missed 3-pointer and initiated a Celtics fast break that led to Jayson Tatum's game-winning layup as the buzzer sounded.

Some (including Bruce Brown) viewed Boston's frontcourt as a weakness entering this series with the dynamic Robert Williams sidelined. But Horford reminded the NBA world what he was capable of Sunday, joining a very exclusive list of players to put up at least 20 points and 15 rebounds after their 35th birthday.

"Al was Al," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said after the game. "He does it all the time."

Whether Horford can sustain this high level of play throughout the series while playing 40 minutes per night remains to be seen. But with Theis and Grant Williams both having relatively quiet afternoons, Horford single-handedly turned a Boston "weakness" into a strength in Game 1.

And he's eager to do the same in Wednesday's Game 2, noting after Sunday's game that he feels "fine" despite his 41-minute workload.

"I'll start the recovery process and get ready for Wednesday," Horford said.

Note: Games 2-6 of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series will be aired exclusively on NBC Sports Boston and can also be streamed on NBCSportsBoston.com or with the MyTeams App, which you can download below.

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