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Al Horford, the hero we need

The Celtics big man might as well have worn a cape in Game 4.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks

You’re sitting in the theater, popcorn long forgotten, engrossed in the building action on screen. The characters have been developed, the plot has unfolded, and the heroes are facing their crisis moment. What will happen now? The villain has the good guys down and hurt and it appears that hope is just about lost.

Then in comes the older, wiser father figure. He brushes away flashy attacks with cool, calm, collected moves. He uses his head instead of his brawn, but when he needs to, he can still reach back and lay the lumber. He teaches that hot whippersnapper a few lessons. Then the camera zooms in on him, and he hits them with a cheesy one-liner like “better luck next time kid.”

Al Horford was just that kind of hero in Game 4 and he saved the day for the Boston Celtics.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a remarkable player. A worthy MVP candidate and a legitimate force of nature on the basketball court. He’s even very likeable off the court. Of course, for the moment he’s also standing in the way of the Celtics advancing in the playoffs, so for the sake of the narrative, he’s the big, bad villain of this story. Right about at the middle of the 3rd quarter, he had the Bucks up by double digits with his 28th point. Our heroes were bruised, battered, and wondering what truck just ran them over.

Enter 35-year-old Al Horford. All game long he and his fellow defenders had been making life as hard as possible on the former MVP. He still got his points, but it was never easy. From that moment forward Horford outscored Giannis 16 points to 6. No play better encapsulated the moment more than his dunk over Giannis.

That effort gave Jayson Tatum just enough breathing room to get himself cooking. Which gave Marcus Smart just enough room to contribute some key buckets down the stretch. It was a complete team effort, in particular on defense, but none of it could have happened if not for Al Horford turning the tide.

Horford and Tatum both finished with 30 points on the game and Horford found his way into the record books.

There’s just no overstating Al Horford’s importance to this team anymore. His teammates are effusive in their praise for the man. Opponents have the utmost respect for him. His impact on the court is indisputable.

The fact that he’s doing all this at his age is remarkable, but no longer surprising. Forget about his contract for a moment, put aside the transactions and future till the summer. Living in this moment, enjoying this team, you can’t help but be thankful that Al Horford is on the Boston Celtics and getting his moment to shine.

The work is not done, by any means. Horford will be the first to point that out. But if any team is going to find a way to slow down and eventually eliminate Giannis and the World Champion Bucks, it has to be the Boston Celtics. Largely because we have Al Horford. The hero we need.