Al Horford's late game heroics lift Celtics over Pistons, 94-92

The Boston Celtics squeaked by the Detroit Pistons 94-92 Saturday night thanks to a clutch showing from Al Horford. A tight game the whole way ended in favor of Boston.

The Celtics were happy to have Horford and Jae Crowder back in the starting lineup tonight after missing extended time with injuries. Both players had an immediate impact in the first quarter by being all over the court and knocking down threes like these:

The C's as a team were feeling it from deep throughout the quarter, highlighted by Isaiah Thomas' contested buzzer-beating corner trey to end the first:

This gave them a seven-point advantage going into the second quarter:

In Horford's first game back from his concussion, he contributed in numerous ways. He finished the half with 12 points, six boards, three assists, and two blocks in 15 minutes of play, and made it easier for the Celtics to sustain great ball movement - there were 15 assists on the teams' 18 made field goals in the first half.

While the Celts were getting it done from the perimeter and zipping the ball around the court, the Pistons were punishing Boston with their height. Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, and Andre Drummond all hit multiple shots over their shorter defenders, tallying double-digit points in the process. They doubled up the Celtics on points in the paint, keeping them within three points of the Celtics through 24 minutes of basketball.

Boston came out of the intermission with a quick scoring burst, but then had very stagnant offense throughout the third quarter. They settled for many contested shots or tough attempts at the end of the shot clock, which plummeted their field goal percentage. Isaiah Thomas still did his thing, but team shot 31% in the quarter and lost their lead as Morris and Drummond continued their strong play:

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair with no one gaining ground on the other. Morris and Drummond made some big plays down the stretch, but Thomas, Bradley, and Horford had an answer every time. After 20 lead changes and a long stretch of no free-throws, Isaiah drew a foul on a drive to the rim to give Boston a three point lead with 30 seconds left.

The closing half-minute was action-packed. Tobias Harris drained a corner three to tie the ballgame and give the Celtics one last shot for the win. IT had a nice drive and dish to Crowder in the corner who missed the three, but Marcus Smart flashed to the hoop and, although he missed a putback layup, allowed Horford to swoop in hit the game-winning putback with two seconds left. Detroit's last attempt ended in a beautiful block to seal the game by who else but Al Horford. Here is the final offensive sequence for the Celtics:

Horford was the hero of the game and finished with an impressive stat line in his return:

Thomas added 24 points and eight assists in the win.

Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32

Photo by Detroit Pistons