Al Horford and the Boston Celtics have come under scrutiny over the last 24 hours, after the veteran big man dived onto the floor to retrieve a loose ball, hurting Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in the process.
We’ve been here before, but last time it was Marcus Smart who hurt the superstar guard in a similar fashion. Horford, 35, is widely regarded as a consummate professional, and while he’s competitive, he’s never shown a vindictive side to his game.
Speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart came to the defense of Horford, noting that in the NBA Finals, every possession is played at the highest intensity level possible.
“It’s the Finals. You’ve got guys diving all over the place. Their guys are diving into us. We don’t say anything. We’re getting hurt as well, but we continue to play. Nothing is intentional. It’s the Finals. We’re trying to win just like them. First one to the ball, as we all know, wins. They can complain all they want. It is what it is. There’s nothing dirty about it. It’s fair game. It’s fair basketball. It’s Finals basketball. … Nobody is out here trying to hurt anybody,” Smart told Haynes during the interview.
Horford has been resurgent throughout the post-season, averaging 12.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 52% from the field and 46.4% from deep.
Horford Was Going for the Ball
Part of what’s made the Celtics so successful this season is their willingness to battle on both ends of the floor, never taking possession off. After finishing the regular season with the best-ranked defense in the NBA, it was clear this was a team that prided themselves on their ability to fight through adversity and rise to any challenge thrown at them.
As such, it should come as no surprise that the Celtics often throw themselves into 50/50 situations, hustling for the good of the team. We’ve become accustomed to seeing Marcus Smart be the first one to hit the floor after a loose ball throughout his career, and now the rest of the team is following suit.
Speaking to the media on June 9, Al Horford explained that when he dove on the floor, his entire focus was on the ball and that he was making a hustle play to ensure his team kept possession.
” I just saw the loose ball. I just tried to make a play. Yeah, I understand the type of moment and us continuing just to play the right way, play to win,” Horford told reporters.
Curry Intends to Play in Game Four
Despite hurting his ankle when Horford dove onto the floor, Curry has informed the media that he intends to participate in game four, “I’m going to play. That’s all I know right now.”
The Warriors are currently down 2-1 in the series and need to have the best players available if they wish to tie up the series before heading back home to play game five on June 13. Yet, Curry isn’t worried about anything other than the next game, even sharing how he’s been treating his injury since it occurred on June 8.
“About ten and a half hours of sleep, a couple dunks in the ice bucket and that’s about it for now. Then take advantage of today and tomorrow to get completely ready for the game. Get as much recovery and healing as possible and understand how important Game 4 is. I’m excited about the opportunity,” Curry said.
Boston and Golden State will face off for game four of the NBA Finals on June 10, at the TD Garden, where the Celtics will be looking to make it a 3-1 series and take full control of their own destiny.