Two games into his return from a torn right pectoral that forced him to miss 55 regular season contests and the first three games of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, forward/center Al Horford came up big for the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, scoring a team-high 19 points (on 8-of-15 shooting) with 11 rebounds in 41 minutes.
Horford’s monster night, which fueled Atlanta’s 87-86 victory over Boston, included three assists, three steals and three blocks along with a big jumper with 1:34 left that put the Hawks up four points. He made his return to the starting lineup on Tuesday after playing just 20 minutes in Game 4 of his team’s first-round series on Sunday.
“Al Horford was absolutely huge tonight,” Hawks head coach Larry Drew said in the post-game press conference. “His ability to move around at times when we were forced to make switches on defense, and his foot speed enabled him to stay with the ball. Offensively he gives us a presence down there, and he made some big shots for us tonight. I didn’t want to bring him back that early in the fourth, but it was a close game and you could feel the momentum shifting. He was a superman for us down the stretch.”
Horford said after the game that he was only supposed to play 15-20 minutes but was perfectly fine after being on the court for double that amount of time. “I was tired a little bit but right now I feel fine,” he said. “Maybe it’s the adrenaline from the game and [Wednesday] it will be a different story, but right now I’m fine. At the end of the third quarter I asked coach if he could sit me down for four or five minutes so I can come back and leave it all out there. But I had to go back in earlier than that. I was picking my spots on when to be aggressive out there. I didn’t want to lose the series that way, so I didn’t want to let [Rajon] Rondo shoot a jumper over me. You’re fighting for your life out there. I wanted to bring energy to the team tonight. We needed to win this game.”