Published on: Modified on:
San Francisco (AFP) – He had to play 141 playoff games, a record, before finally enjoying the thrill of a first NBA Finals: Al Horford, dominating Boston’s success at Golden State (120-108), on Thursday in Game N. 1, wants to seize the opportunity to be champion at 36 years old.
Last Sunday in Miami, after the buzzer of the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Dominican had dropped to his knees, crying, screaming with all his might 15 years of buried basketball frustrations and immense grief contained since the loss of her maternal grandfather a few days earlier.
“I didn’t know how to behave,” he later admitted, somewhat contrite, yet discreetly imposing in size (2.06 m, 109 kg), whose exemplary career has seldom passed under the beam of glory, if not briefly. the time of five All-Star selections (last time four years ago).
The tears quickly dried, the head cooled, the legs rejuvenated, and the muscles came out, four days later in San Francisco, where, for its premiere on the biggest stage, it was sparkling.
The home side finished the Celtics’ top scorer with 26 points, with a diabolical address (9/12), including 11 in the last quarter that largely helped crush the Warriors (120-108). Because Boston, fifteen minutes earlier, was leading by 15 units and in return inflicted a terrible (40-16) on Golden State in that final period.
“I’ve been waiting so long”
A first by calling another, “Big Al” became in this match the first player to hit six three-point baskets (out of 8 attempts, personal record broken) for his debut in an NBA Finals. And he became the second-oldest to score so many points, behind Chris Paul (Phoenix), who scored 32 last year at 36, against future champion Milwaukee.
“I’ve been waiting so long for this moment. I’m grateful to have this opportunity and I’m glad to be able to share this with this group of guys,” he told a news conference, accompanied by his eldest son.
“A group of guys” that makes him feel good. All he had to do was watch them embrace their veteran teammate in Miami to share his joy, and hear them greet his performance on Thursday night to understand his place in the C’s.
“We were ecstatic for him. He’s a sheet metal worker! He works hard. No one deserves to be here more than he is. The way he behaves professionally, everything he brings every day … We knew it was only a matter of time before he had such a big game, “said Marcus Smart.
“He sets the example”
During these play-offs, he has a string of others, with some big clients in front of him, be they Kevin Durant (Nets), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) or Jimmy Butler (Heat).
Not bad for a player who was thought to be in decline, after thirteen unsuccessful playoff campaigns since being drafted 3rd by Atlanta in 2007. During his nine seasons with the Hawks, he lost a Eastern Conference Finals, against the Cleveland Cavaliers of LeBron James (2015), who again blocked his way at this stage, during a first stint with the Celtics (2017 and 2018).
Then sent to Philadelphia and then Oklahoma City, where he morphed last year, Horford was then contacted by Brad Stevens, his former C’s coach who had just become general manager, to return to Boston to lead, being a relay. of rookie coach Ime Udoka.
“What he did this season is amazing. He came to training camp in great shape, very motivated, with a lot to prove. He communicates a lot, he sets the example by gesture. “Cling to him,” he said.
And Jaylen Brown abounds: “I’m proud to be able to share this moment with a mentor, a brother, a guy like Al Horford.”
© 2022 AFP