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Coincidentally, old-fashioned is also the style of play the Celtics are asking Horford to display during this series.
As such, Boston pounded the ball in to Horford on the block and allowed him to go to work on Antetokounmpo throughout the first contest of the series. Horford received six paint touches during the game, which is a dramatic spike from his average of 3.8 paint touches per game during the regular season.
Horford was the key to Boston’s victory in Game 1. He was bruised and battered after the final buzzer, but the last two days allowed him to recover, and now he’s ready to do it all again when the ball goes up at 8 p.m. tonight.
Horford played a season-high 44 minutes during Boston’s thrilling overtime victory over the Bucks Sunday afternoon. This occurred after a regular season that saw Horford play no more than 39 minutes in any game, and which featured only seven instances of him logging more than 35 minutes.
WALTHAM, Mass. – Brad Stevens said Tuesday morning that the Celtics are going to lean on veteran big man Al Horford “as much as we can” during their first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. They certainly did so during Game 1, yet Horford still managed to feel fresh Tuesday morning ahead of tonight’s rematch in Game 2.
“Cold tub,” he said with a smile of his main recovery tool. “Old-fashioned.”
Horford added, “This is go-time. It’s the Playoffs. This is what you play for. I’m just happy to have this opportunity.”
The C’s need Horford’s versatile defense, and they need his post-up ability. That’s why they’re leaning on him as much as they possibly can during this series. And thanks to that old-fashioned recovery plan, Horford believes that he’ll be able to stand up to the task.
Boston believes that it has an advantage in the post with Horford, who is oftentimes matched up with Milwaukee star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. Horford has a 23-pound advantage over Antetokounmpo, according to their official playing weights, and the C’s want to exploit that size.
And the Celtics are happy to give it to him.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the court, the Celtics are also asking a lot out of Horford. He has been tasked with being Antetokounmpo’s primary defender.
“Just trying to rest as much as we can and hydrate,” Horford said of his recovery plan over the last two days. “All of the stuff that you do all year, now you just have to be even more aware of those things.”
Antetokounmpo is called the “Greek Freak” for a reason; he is a freak of nature whose combination of size, length and athleticism makes him a matchup nightmare for nearly every opposing player in the NBA. Horford, however, did “an incredible job” defending Antetokounmpo, according to Stevens, despite the Greek Freak notching a game-high 35 points.
How did those paint touches affect the game? Horford got to the line for a playoff career high 14 free throw attempts, and he demanded consistent double-teams from Milwaukee that opened up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
That heavy load of minutes during Game 1, coupled with his heavy load of responsibility at both ends of the court, is why Horford spent the last two days in full recovery mode. He needed to prepare his body for another grueling matchup tonight at TD Garden.
Horford’s secret weapon to his recovery is not sexy or high-tech – he leaves that type of flash to LeBron James and his famed cryo-chamber.
“It’s obviously hard on the body,” said Horford, “but it’s part of the reason I feel like Coach has managed our minutes all year, for this situation.”