MILWAUKEE — After trailing the Milwaukee Bucks by ten points in the second half of Game 4, the Boston Celtics were on the verge of completing a fourth-quarter comeback when Al Horford made a play that would galvanize his team to close out the Bucks in a must-win at Fiserv Forum.
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The Celtics were on the verge of falling 3-1 in their best-of-7 semifinal series and were trailing the Bucks by two points with less than ten minutes left when Boston turned to veteran Horford on the perimeter.
Why Giannis Antetokounmpo ‘Didn’t Sit Well’ with Celtics’ Al Horford
Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo sealed him one-on-one before Horford pump-faked a 3-pointer, drove to the rim, and dunked it over the 2021 Finals MVP.
“It’s just one of those plays,” Horford said after Monday’s win. “I got the pass. He closed out. I’ve been shooting that a lot, and I just figured I just drive it, and I drove. Took it in. Big play, obviously, very emotional, and I think, for our group, I think it really got us going even more at that point.”
Horford’s dunk capped off a 7-0 Celtics run. After slamming the ball over Giannis and through the hoop, Al also earned a technical foul for the excessive contact he made on Antetokounmpo. However, for the Celtics’ 15-year veteran, this was revenge.
Giannis beat Horford to the rim earlier in the game and had choice words for Boston’s big man that didn’t necessarily reach Al’s ears, but the message was received loud and clear.
“I don’t really know what he said to me, but the way he was looking at me and the way he was going about it really didn’t sit well with me,” Horford said. “And, at that point, I think something switched with me in the game.”
Horford: ‘Playoffs are Emotional; They’re Intense’
Horford and Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum (30 points) led the Celtics to outscore Milwaukee 43-28 in the fourth quarter en route to a crucial 116-108 victory, which evened their best-of-7 series, 2-2. Al scored 16 of his playoff-career high 30 points in the fourth quarter.
He was impressively 11-of-14 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from 3.
“Playoffs are emotional; they’re intense, and tonight things weren’t going our way,” Horford said. “They were hard there, in the third, for a while. Guys, Smart kept talking in the huddles, just kind of kept telling us to stay with it. Definitely just a lot of emotions at that point.”
Tatum, who struggled to find his offensive early and often throughout the night, caught fire in the game’s final frame — where he scored eight consecutive points and finished with 30 to go with his 13 rebounds and five assists. Horford and Tatum went 9-of-11 from the floor in the fourth and led a game-closing 14-2 Celtics run.
“It’s kind of contagious; everybody feels it,” Horford added. “It motivates everyone when any of us have any of those types of plays. At that point, we just wanted to keep it going.”
Horford: ‘I Understood The Moment & What We Needed’
Elated, Horford said the devastating manner in which Game 3 ended — Horford’s game-tying layup waved off at the end of a 103-101 loss — added a significant layer to Monday’s matchup. The extra motivation led to a quick start for Al before Giannis’ taunting remarks triggered a 30-point performance by the 35-year-old pro.
“We all understood the importance of this game, and we felt that at the end of Game 3, we were in a position to win the game, and we didn’t,” Horford said. “I was just really locked in. I understood the moment and what we needed to do as a group. Just come out and really just did whatever it took tonight — it was one of those types of nights.”