Al Horford is the Hero Boston Deserves

There are not many who could have seen this coming. Be honest here. When you heard Boston was bringing back Al Horford, this was never a thought inside your head. Never once did it cross your mind that he could be an x-factor player for the Celtics. Especially not come playoff time.

Yet here we are. In the most important game of the year, with the season on the line. Al Horford was the hero the Celtics never knew they needed, but the one Boston deserves. Never has it felt better to be totally wrong.

When the Celtics needed a hero most, Big Al stepped up to the plate. Just a month shy from turning 36 years old. The veteran was the difference maker in tonight’s Game 4 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The series is now tied at 2-2 heading back to Boston, in large part due to Al’s outstanding performance.

In a 116-108 victory in Milwaukee, Horford finished with 30 points and 8 rebounds, shooting an absurd 79% from the floor. To put how huge this was into perspective, this was the first time in his career Big Al dropped 30 or more in a playoff game. Al coming into tonight had played in 131 career playoff games. This was without a doubt his career best in the playoffs.

This coming from a guy who came back to Boston as an afterthought. He was the prize for dumping Kemba Walker’s albatross of a contract. A guy who people seriously wondered what his role on this team would be. When the game was close in the fourth quarter, it was Horford who took over.

Not Tatum, not Brown, but Horford. He changed the entire chemistry of the game. Momentum completely shifted once Horford took over. He even made the two time MVP look silly, which isn’t exactly easy to do.

His energy was just infectious tonight. He was in his bag, just look at this clip with him and Giannis. Al was hyped up in a way I’ve never seen him before. He was a man possessed, and I loved everyone second of it.

It’s one of those things that just gets you amped. It’s the storybook element that can electrify the postseason. A man in the twilight years of his career, a man who wasn’t supposed to be a key piece on a contending team. One of the oldest players on the court. Just took the game into his own hands, and helped will Boston to victory. On the road. Without its young budding star in Robert Williams.

If Boston does something of significance in these playoffs, like get to the Finals or win a championship, it will be this game people look back to. Boston easily could have faltered, and Milwaukee could have gone up 3-1. Instead, the series is tied going back to Beantown for a pivotal Game 5.

You just get the feeling Al has been waiting for this moment for a long time. The man has made the playoffs in 14 of his 15 NBA seasons, but has never reached the Finals. With his career dwindling, you know this could be his best shot remaining. He’s fighting like it, turning back the clocks to help Boston persevere. It’s as inspiring as it is exhilarating. I’m expecting a pretty warm reception for Horford when the C’s return to Boston for Game 5. Wednesday night is going to be quite the spectacle, and I simply cannot wait.

Cover photo by Jim Davis/Boston Globe Staff

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