Al Horford was lauded by NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg as a big-game player ahead of the Boston Celtics' In-Season Tournament quarterfinal matchup against the Indiana Pacers on December 4; one who steps up when the stakes are higher against the best of the best.
"Nothing seems to gas up Horford like a matchup with a little extra incentive," Forsberg wrote. "That could be seeing Joel Embiid (or just the Sixers' red, white, and blue in general) or Giannis Antetokounmpo on the opposite side. Horford always seems to shift to another gear when there’s a little more at stake.
"The NBA Cup is certainly not Horford’s ultimate goal; he’s still chasing that elusive championship ring. But you suspect that Horford will be just that much more engaged on a bigger stage. Eighteen years later, Horford is still trying to will his team to the Final Four."
Al Horford indispensable to Boston Celtics' championship hopes
There was a brief period where Horford didn't look comfortable coming off the bench. His play suffered, and even the idea of trading him didn't seem all that far-fetched.
Now? Horford is one of the most indispensable members of the team, and thinking about taking the 37-year-old out of the mix is essentially a self-destructive thought if you are a member of the Celtics' front office.
Horford has had double-digit scoring outputs in four of his last seven games in starter minutes following Kristaps Porzingis's injury; one that could keep him out far longer than the one-week timetable given in the immediate aftermath of his announced absence. It's not a stretch to say that without Horford, Boston would be struggling to stay afloat in the frontcourt.
Horford may not have many years left in his career, but Brad Stevens and Co. owe it to the fanbase to make sure he plays all of them out in Celtics green.