Boston’s Al Horford has Enough Experience for his Entire Team
Brad Stevens, the coach of the Boston Celtics, knows a few things about basketball. At least one of his players refers to him. And about an hour after the premature confetti had been cleared from the court at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night, Stevens casually mentioned that he was familiar with the 40-odd plays that the Philadelphia 76ers run during end-of-game situations after timeouts.
“I mean, we’ve watched them all,” Stevens said, somehow delivering this information without a trace of conceit.
“When things get going poorly, everybody just kind of looks at Al, including the coaches,” Stevens said. “We all kind of stare at Al and wait for him to say something. And then when he does say something, we all feel better and take a deep breath and maybe we can go into overtime and win this thing. He’s unbelievable.”
The Celtics are riding the rapid rises of young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, who are not behaving like young players. But it is worth emphasizing ad nauseam: These are the same Celtics who lost Gordon Hayward to an ankle issue on the first night of the season and Kyrie Irving to knee surgery last month.
Horford trusted his coach in an important situation. The Celtics were trailing by 1 with less than 10 seconds left when Stevens motioned for a timeout, just as Horford was about to receive an entry pass in the post against the 76ers’ Ersan Ilyasova. Steven wanted to concoct an out-of-bounds play that he thought would be more favorable for his team.
“He sees certain things and understands them,” Horford said. “It just seems like he makes the right decision every time.”
Sure enough, the Celtics cleared space for Horford on the inbounds, who took a lob over the top of the 76ers’ Robert Covington and scored on a layup to give the Celtics the lead for good.
Even as 76ers Coach Brett Brown continues to express hope that his players are learning from these playoffs, he was careful after the game for their various late-stage catastrophes — and perhaps for good reason. The Celtics have loads of young players, too.
But it was Horford’s savvy that made the difference. As Tatum put it, “He’s been in every situation possible.”