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Win it all for Al: Horford continues to define Celtics culture

In his fifth season in Boston, the sixteen-year vet has never been better.

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

This weekend, I suggested that by the time Al Horford retires (presumably after his two-year extension expires in 2025), he’ll have done enough to get his #42 raised to the rafters regardless of whether or not a banner or two join his number at TD Garden.

Per StatMuse, the Celtics are 264-146 when Horford has suited up for the green. That’s nearly two wins every three games for the sixteen-year vet. Whether that was next to Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, or Marcus Smart, he’s been a winner in Boston.

“He’s a lot of things, one of those things is our emotional leader,” Joe Mazzulla said after practice on Monday before Game 2 against Horford’s former team of ten seasons, the Atlanta Hawks. “He has an innate maturity and ability to bring a game back with a big shot or a blocked shot.”

“We’re just really fortunate to have him, not only for what he can do on the basketball court, but what he brings on an emotional and leadership standpoint. Not only does it help us during the course of a season, but in moments in games, he’s big for us.”

The young Celtics have all talked glowingly of Horford’s even keel approach and steady work ethic and it’s rare for him to show any big emotions during a game. Remember when Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked on him in Game 4 last playoffs, mean mugged, and flexed? Big Al simply nodded and used it to fuel him the rest of the game; he’d score seventeen points in the 4th quarter, including this emphatic slam.

On Saturday after the Hawks whittled down a 32-point lead to 13 early in the fourth quarter, a vocal Horford “spoke emphatically inside the huddle” during a timeout. Two stops and three scores later, the Celtics were back up comfortably by 18.

“Just making sure the group locked back in, that we were focused and got back to playing like we were. Our group responded. We did what we had to do and did enough to put up a win,” the low-key Horford said after scoring six points and grabbing nine rebounds in Game 1.

Later in the clutch with the lead down to 12 with over three minutes to go, he hit a 3 and followed it up with a block, effectively sealing a win in the postseason opener. He’d finish the game a team-high +16.

On and off the floor. Offense. Defense. Horford even called timeout for Hawks’ head coach Quin Snyder. And it is in this writer’s humble opinion that #42 will also eventually be hanging in the rafters.

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