Thirty-five-year-old Al Horford became the oldest Boston Celtics player to have 30 points in a playoff game. He played 42 minutes scored a playoff-career high 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and was a team high +20 in the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday. The best-of-seven series is now tied at 2-2.
Al Horford is the oldest Celtics player with a 30-point game in the playoffs since John Havlicek did it in Game 2 of the 1977 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the 76ers. Havlicek was 37.
This is also Horford's first career 30-point game in 132 playoff games. pic.twitter.com/0sU2RFW5LN
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 10, 2022
Horford played like a spry 20-something all night. His highlight play came as he drove by two-time MVP and defensive player of the year Giannis Antetokounmpo on a close-out, drove to the rim for a dunk and got an and one on Giannis. He let out a scream and on his follow-through knocked Giannis to the ground.
— NBA (@NBA) May 10, 2022
The veteran was stoic when asked about the play in his postgame media availability.
“Big play, very emotional,” said Horford. “It got us going even more.”
— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 (@_Talkin_NBA) May 10, 2022
The Horford dunk was payback. Just a few minutes prior Giannis dunked on Horford and let out a little taunt. The Bucks superstar was issued a technical but it clearly ignited Horford who was already having a good game.
“I didn’t make out what he said, but the way he looked at me didn’t sit well with me,” Horford said. “That got me going.”
At times in this series Horford has been the best player for the Celtics. When the Celtics reacquired him from Oklahoma City, it looked like a nice end-of-career story. Nobody, except maybe Horford, saw this coming.
“He’s been great all year, but we really needed him to step up with guys being out,” said Celtics head coach Ime Udoka following the game. “He took that on his shoulders.”
Ime Udoka on Al Horford: "He’s been great all year, but we really needed him to step up with guys being out…He took that on his shoulders."
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 10, 2022
Horford is shooting 50 percent from three this series (14-28). He’s a career 36 percent shooter from deep, but the Bucks’ defensive philosophy is to eliminate paint scores and give up threes. The hope is a career 36 percent shooter can’t keep up this torrid pace.
But it’s not just offensively where Horford has been dominant. He’s played great individual and team defense. He understands angles and is very strong.
According to StatMuse, Giannis is 15-49 (30.6 percent) when guarded by Horford this series. In Game 4 when Horford was the primary defender on Giannis, Horford held the Bucks All-Star to 4-for-12 shooting.
As the series shifts to Boston for Game 5, the Celtics have regained home court advantage and the series now becomes a best-of-three. The Celtics have also seized momentum and have limited the Bucks offensively down the stretch.
The Bucks really miss Khris Middleton in this series. He’s a natural pick and roll partner and can isolate and score at all three levels. Without Middleton as a pressure release the Celtics build a wall against Antetokounmpo and force the Bucks’ other players to shoot contested jumpers. Role players like Wesley Matthews, Grayson Allen and Bobby Portis are going to have to knock down shots.
Horford has found the fountain of youth in his return stint in Boston. He is averaging 38 minutes per game this series and will need to log heavy minutes as the Celtics hope to close this series out in six games.