MILWAUKEE — Boston Celtics big man Al Horford scored a playoff career-high 30 points against the champion Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals’ best-of-7 series, which included a viral moment between Horford and the 2021 Finals MVP Giannis Antetokunmpo.
Horford’s vicious dunk over Antetokounmpo happened early in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 116-108 win.
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It helped Boston complete an 11-point second-half comeback before Jayson Tatum scored 12 of his 30 points in the final frame to secure the victory and even up the series, 2-2.
Tito Horford on Antetokounmpo: ‘He Was Real Cocky About it’
In attendance for Game 4 at the Fiserv Center was Horford’s father, former Bucks center Tito Horford, who spoke to Heavy.com moments after the Celtics’ crucial win and shared his take on what he saw was an ongoing back-and-forth between Al and Giannis.
“As a father, I was jumping up and down, and I have it on my phone,” Horford told Heavy.com of his son’s dunk over Antetokounmpo. “I’m looking at it every five minutes because when he dunked on my son, he was talking trash. And I said, ‘You know what? Just watch my son get it back. He’s gonna get it back,’ and then, he did it. So, that made me really happy.”
Tito, who played two seasons for the Bucks (1988-90), saw the retaliation in Al’s eyes after Antetokounmpo’s dunked over Horford, followed by a staredown that Al later confessed; “didn’t sit well” with him.
“I know he was real cocky about it,” Horford Sr. added. “But (Al) said, “you know what? I’m not going to say anything. I’m going to get him back,” and that’s exactly what he did. (Al) got him back.”
Horford, 35, turned the clock back with his epic performance in Game 4. Still, Tito believes the tough-minded Celtics are strong enough to withstand the pressure of attempting to dethrone the defending champions.
“We know, everybody knows it’s going to be tough. We know this is not going to be easy,” Tito said. “We’re playing against the NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks. They have a great team, a large team. They play very physically but one thing about the Boston Celtics is they’re focused. This year, they’re thinking they can play anybody. They’re not running from anybody and you can see that now.
“They had a big man down — (Robert) Williams — (they) came out and played, and that’s why we came out with a win today. They kept their focus.”
Tito Horford’s Prediction Vs. Bucks: ‘It’s Over, Baby’
Horford’s 30-point masterpiece followed his 22-point, 16-rebound performance in Game 3. After averaging 13.0 points, and 7.5 rebounds in four games against the Brooklyn Nets in the Celtics’ first-round matchup, Horford’s stepped it up against Milwaukee — where he’s scoring 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds per game while shooting at a 53.1% clip from the floor, 48.2% from behind the arc against the Bucks, per ESPN.com.
“I think that helps a lot,” Horford said. “That was a good experience for them because now they see they can win and they have a good team. They sent a message today. They sent a message, and I believe they’re going to continue to play the way they play. They’re gonna go pretty far. The most important thing is that they are focused. They’re going to do a special thing in this series.”
As far as predictions are concerned, Tito’s placing his bet on his son’s Celtics over his former team. However, to his credit, Horford Sr. prophesized the winner before Game 4 and not after Al’s dominating play.
“I was telling my friend whoever wins Game 4 wins the series,” he said. “So, it’s over, baby.”
The Celtics will host the Bucks in Game 5 at TD Garden on Wednesday night.