Image Credit: ESPN Images
Former Florida Gators forward Al Horford, 36, has put together quite a professional career after being selected No. 3 overall in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft. A five-time NBA All-Star with his last such honor coming in 2018, Horford entered his 15th season aiming for, perhaps, a last gasp at greatness.
Horford has achieved that and more with a streak of postseason performances that would make a casual observer believe he’s in the fifth year of his career, not his 15th. “The Godfather” has averaged nearly a double double per game since the start of the NBA Playoffs with five performances of 20+ points and nine others with double-digit rebounding totals for the Boston Celtics.
His astounding 30-point performance against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals opened eyes as he averaged 18.8 points and 11.3 boards across the first half of that series, giving the Celtics a leg up against the defending champions, which Boston ultimately defeated in seven games.
With five playoff double-doubles entering the NBA Finals, there’s no doubt that Horford had done his job to get his younger teammates to the Promised Land. Yet, despite making the playoffs in 12 of his prior 14 seasons, Big Al proved he was nowhere near done Thursday night as he made his first finals appearance after 141 career playoff games, an NBA record.
Horford posted 26 points on 9 of 12 shooting, draining 6 of 8 treys in the Celtics’ 120-108 Game 1 win over the Golden State Warriors. His six triples were not only a career-high in any game, but they set the record for most by any player making his NBA Finals debut.
Though he was nails all game, Horford was truly dominant in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points on perfect 4 of 4 shooting and draining a 3-pointer that put Boston for good ahead with just over 5 minutes remaining. The Celtics outscored the Warriors 40-16 in the period with Horford’s heroics coming as part of a 17-0 run that turned the game on its head. (He also had a key steal late in the game along with six rebounds and three assists.)
Horford has been the story of the NBA Playoffs thus far, and Boston enters Game 2 as the clear favorites to win the series given it has already snatched away homecourt advantage from a Golden State team that was previously unbeaten at home this postseason.
Horford is looking to become the first former Gators player since Matt Bonner and just the ninth ever to win an NBA ring. Former Florida point guard Chris Chiozza is also in the finals playing for the Warriors, so the orange and blue is guaranteed to add another ring to its collection once the postseason concludes.