Al Horford: Father Time's worst nightmare

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Five
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Five / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages

Every time Al Horford takes the court, Father Time shakes in his boots. Horford gave Celtics fans a performance for the ages last round in Boston’s closeout Game 5 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, helping the 17-time champions reach their third-straight Eastern Conference Finals.

Horford will turn 38 in June, but he played with the contagious energy of a rookie with something to prove. He treated the TD Garden to his strongest performance of the season with 22 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, three blocks, and six 3-pointers. Horford also grabbed seven offensive rebounds and led the team in plus-minus with a +26 mark.

Although his counting stats did not stand out for most of the series, Big Al led the Celtics in plus-minus through five games at +58 overall. He also ranks second in leaguewide plus-minus this postseason with a +108 mark (+10.8 per game). The Dominican big man has stepped up in Kristaps Porzingis’ absence with his irreplaceable leadership, defensive versatility, and long-range shooting.

The TD Garden crowd rewarded Horford’s vintage night with a roar of MVP chants as he checked out in the final moments of the game. The beloved veteran savored the moment, hyping up the crowd before hugging his father Tito, and the entire Celtics bench.

It is no secret that Celtics fans adore Horford and his ability to turn back the clock. After all, this isn’t the first time Father Time has met his match. 

Over the years, Big Al has gifted the Celtics faithful with some age-defying performances. In the 2022 playoffs, Horford famously posterized Giannis Antetokounmpo during a crucial Game 4 win against the Milwaukee Bucks. In that same playoff run, Horford caught fire for six 3-pointers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The city of Boston loves Horford, and the feeling is quite mutual. After his epic outing, Horford expressed his admiration for the fans at TD Garden.

"It’s special when you’re here at the Garden. This is something I just don’t take for granted. Our fans love the Celtics. They want us to play hard. They want us to play the right way. I just felt very connected with them tonight … There were just a few times that I wanted to be embraced by them in those moments. That fuels me, and that fuels our team. It was pretty special here tonight."

Al Horford

Horford made history with his performance, becoming the first-ever player to record at least 20 points, 15 rebounds, five 3-pointers, and three blocks in a playoff game. He also became the oldest player in NBA history with at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, and five 3-pointers in a playoff game.

Horford, now the all-time leader in playoff threes by a center, joined some elite company as one of three players in NBA history to record a 20-point, 15-rebound, 5-assist playoff game at 37 years old. Only LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have also achieved this feat.

Horford also became one of three players to nail six 3-pointers in a playoff game at age 37 or older. The Cavs could only stand there and watch as Big Al rained three after three. Horford shot 41.9% from deep on four attempts per game during the regular season. He also shot a league-high 44.6% from three two seasons ago.

Incredibly enough, Horford has shot a remarkable 79.2% on 2-pointers in these playoffs. He is also attempting more twos than he did last postseason. In the first round, Horford sank 10 of his 12 attempts from inside the arc. He then shot 9/12 from two against the Cavs.

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla showed his love and appreciation for Horford in his postgame presser.

"Tonight you saw his gift. His gift is passion, inspiration, toughness, competitive nature … That’s who Al is as a person. I thought he was tremendous. Grateful for Al … The way he affected the game in different ways was awesome. Honor to coach."

Joe Mazzulla

Jayson Tatum called Horford his favorite teammate he has ever had back in November, and he doubled down on his love for Big Al after Game 5.

"Al's like a brother to me. Someone I love dearly… I give Al a lot of credit for how he has transitioned and adapted his game to still play a major role and have a huge impact. I've watched Al, how professional he is, how he carries himself, how he takes care of his body. I've stolen a lot of things from Al throughout my career. Having a routine every single day … Having a plan of ‘what are you gonna do to get better today?’"

Jayson Tatum

Al Horford has set the tone for the Celtics in the leadership department

Needless to say, Horford’s impact has resonated throughout the entire Celtics organization. As one of Boston’s locker room leaders, he has helped to set the tone for a team that has shown a leap in overall maturity this season.

With the Indiana Pacers looming in the conference finals, Horford will have to help the Celtics contain the dangerous frontcourt of Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam. As one of the best post defenders in the league, Horford should be able to impose his presence on the matchup. Porzingis is expected to miss at least the first two games of the series, so the Celtics will continue to call upon Horford’s experience as they push for Banner 18.

With Horford as motivated as ever for his first ring, Father Time better be ready for another battle with his ultimate kryptonite.