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Al Horford, Boston’s lucky charm

A catalyst for the Celtics success, Al Horford continues to show why he’s such an impactful player.

Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Following the Celtics 118-101 victory over the Pacers, Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle said Boston has the “best starting five in basketball.”

Let me correct that statement. The Celtics have the best top six in the NBA. With Al Horford snubbed in the post-game comments, he’s a player that anyone would dream of having on their roster.

I truly can’t get enough of Horford, and the feeling appears mutual between Celtics fans and the team. In the midst of his 17th NBA season, he’s fully embraced his new role off the bench. He simply makes the most of his minutes, and that continued Saturday night. In a post-game interview with NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin, Jayson Tatum heavily praised his teammate.

“We can’t keep taking him for granted,” said Tatum. “Best teammate I’ve ever had, ultimate professional, and he’s somebody we can count on night-in and night-out. He proved that again tonight.”

Finishing with 10 points, on 2-5 three-point shooting (40 percent), and 4-5 from the field (80 percent), Horford was also masterful on the defensive end with two blocks and one steal. Flirting with a triple double, the Dominican native finished with eight assists and seven rebounds in 30 minutes.

His biggest statement on the night came late in the fourth quarter. Able to pick up the screen on Oshae Brissett against Tyrese Haliburton, number 42 came up with a pivotal steal— one that turned into a Jaylen Brown alley-op in fast break transition.

Horford stepped in flawlessly when Kristaps Porzingis went down with an eye injury midway through the first quarter. Not missing a beat, the former Florida Gator was seen everywhere on the court for the C’s.

One of his other key highlights of the night included a monumental block on center Myles Turner. His ability to cover the perimeter yet drop back was exhibited all night. He in fact held Turner to zero percent three-point shooting.

While his impact on the game was immense, Horford often made small-scale, smart plays that didn’t register in the box score. His ability to space the floor, provided multiple isolation opportunities for Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Conversely, dragging Turner into the paint opened up several looks for Tatum, who finished with a season-high eight made three-pointers. Horford’s ability to stay patient and wait for open looks with double coverage has been essential for Boston all year.

The center’s IQ was on full display, as he continued to scan for Derrick White and teammates off screens. His vision was on point, as he made crisp passes to the weak side, including spotting Jrue Holiday for an open three. His screens were solid, opening up three-point opportunities for Tatum and others. Box outs against Turner were critical in the post, as it created rebounding opportunities for the C’s.

Is there anything this man can’t do?

Notorious for his unselfish gameplay, he had several two-handed passes to the open corner. If you questioned his athleticism, Horford hasn’t lost a step. He was seen saving overthrown passes, and was dishing dimes midair from the paint to the corner.

On the defensive end, Horford was often seen diligently directing traffic, especially while sharing the court with Luke Kornet. Not only is this indicative of veteran leadership on the court, but the trust and respect his team has for him overall.

In a post-game interview, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla described Horford as simply “the best.”

“The high hand steal from the transition, the offensive rebounds that he’s getting, he’s just a guy that you can always rely on,” said Mazzulla.

Whenever he steps on the court, I feel a sense of calmness. Truthfully, there’s no one I’d rather have as a sixth man than Horford. Ol’ Reliable, Horford continues to be a true gem in the chase for Banner 18. He’s a player that give Boston 100 percent of himself night-in and night-out, regardless of his role. What else could you ask for?

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