Al Horford’s ‘Phenomenal’ Game 5 Earns High Praise From Cavs Coach

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BOSTON — Al Horford received plenty of praise from his Celtics teammates after making a major impact on the floor in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

The veteran big man also earned a round of applause from Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

Bickerstaff gave Horford his flowers after the Celtics center turned in an emotionally-charged and game-changing performance. The Cavaliers had bottled Horford up for most of the series, but he broke out by posting a double-double of 22 points and 15 rebounds to go along with five assists and three blocks in Boston’s 113-98 win at TD Garden to advance the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals.

“He made shots and he’s a winner. I can’t say enough about the way that he played tonight,” Bickerstaff said. “Just watching him chase down loose balls, make extra-effort plays. He understood the moment and had the ability on both ends of the floor to impact winning at a high level with little things. Knowing who he is, understanding his role. But I thought he was phenomenal tonight, not only from a shot-making standpoint (but) from what it takes in the trenches and winning plays.”

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The 37-year-old Horford seemed to be showing his age through the first four games of the series, especially when his outside shot dried up. Horford made just three 3-pointers against the Cavaliers heading into Game 5, including going a combined 0-for-10 from beyond the arc in Games 3 and 4. Cleveland dared Horford to keep shooting in Game 5 and he made its defense pay by knocking down 6-of-13 3-point attempts.

When Horford wasn’t draining triples, he played sound defense when switched onto Cavaliers guard Darius Garland and made key hustles plays. He fired up the crowd and the Celtics late in the second quarter when he chased down a loose ball in the corner and threw it off Dean Wade to make sure Boston retained possession.

It certainly was a vintage performance from Horford and one to admire, even from Bickerstaff despite the showing coming at Cleveland’s expense.

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