Celtics win vs. Bucks - Al Horford efficient, clutch, effective - and gassed

Prior to the first game of round one versus the Milwaukee Bucks, Coach Brad Stevens determined that Al Horford was going to be the focus of Boston's offensive attack. The apparent purpose was to obviously put points on the board, but also to make Giannis Antetokounmpo work hard on defense. The strategy worked extremely well.

The Celtics ended up winning the game 113-107 in overtime, and no Celtic worked harder that Al to accomplish the victory. He played 44 minutes, scoring 24 points on 62% from the field and 93% from the free throw line. A total of 13 of his 24 points came on free throws, and he had to work hard for each one.

He was constantly fighting his way into the lane, looking for a layup, jump hook or pass to a teammate. He made the Greek Freak work his butt off on defense, but that constant physical work also took a toll on Al. By games end, he was gassed.

Al Horford is not supremely big, strong or athletic. But he is fundamentally sound and extremely controlled on the court. Shaquille O'Neal gave Tim Duncan the nickname The Big Fundamental for the same reason. Here is The Undefeated's Mike Wise on what Shaq had to say about Al (and Larry Bird):

“I called him (Tim Duncan) The Big Fundamental because his fundamental skills were perfect,” O’Neal said. “I put him in the same category as Larry Bird. Larry Bird didn’t run fast or jump high, but he’d eat you alive with his fundamentals. That’s what Tim did.

When Boston used to take on Horford's Atlanta Hawks, I remember Al doing the same things to the Celtics as he did to the Bucks last night. Fundamental, old-school moves that, at times, picked Boston's defense apart. "Eat you alive" is what Shaq said about Duncan and Bird, and it holds true for Al when he is called upon to take over a game, as he did last night. Hopefully, he will have enough gas in the tank to take us far into the playoffs.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Matt West/Boston Herald
Video via Zarychta Highlights