MILWAUKEE — This season, there was a point when the Boston Celtics were 16-19 overall.
Last season, there was a point when Al HorfordThe reportedly shut down the Oklahoma City Thunder with 28 games leftUncertain where the end of his professional career would take him.
Late Monday night, there was a moment when the Milwaukee BucksTen-point lead, it felt like every whistle and break went in favor of the defending champions.
One of Boston's starting pitchers Robert Williams III, was at the bench because of an injury. Two other options, Jaylen BrownAnd Grant WilliamsThey were forced to leave because of foul trouble. Another, star forward Jayson TatumThe two-game slump that looked like it was in the making, however, was not broken by.
Milwaukee's Giannis AntetokounmpoThe Celtics were relentlessly pressuring the rim and bending their defense. Referees were repeatedly challenged to determine how to stop the bodies from spluttering.
“We felt right at home,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “That's who and what we are. The challenges, the hostile environment. We have been doing this for the past year and we have thrived in it. It's a place we are very comfortable.
These past five months have seen the Celtics' actions back up their words; they are a team who has shown remarkable resilience. The Celtics had their best moment with a dominant 43-point fourth quarter that saw them win the game. 116-108 Game 4 road victoryMonday, to reach a tie of 2-2 series in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Smart was the calm voice. Smart was the one who reassured teammates on the bench and on the floor that New England would not lose its collective minds about whistles after a disappointing third quarter. They did. With a lead of double-digits, they reduced it to seven heading into the fourth.
Tatum was the hammer. Antetokounmpo became tired, and Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer had to bring Tatum to the bench. He was carrying an immense load without his star teammate. Khris MiddletonIt was exhausting, but Tatum saw the opportunity. Tatum attacked the Bucks' center without an anchor and scored 8 points in under a minute. This was a crucial moment for him, as he recorded 12 of his 30 points during the fourth quarter.
The rock was Horford, 35 years old. Horford was the main defender for Antetokounmpo without Williams, who was a late scratch due to complications with his left knee. The Bucks' star tried to stop Horford with basket strikes, which was topped off by a power-dunk in the second half. Antetokounmpo was then penalized with a snarl as well as trash talk.
Horford managed to shake it off in his mild-mannered Horford manner. His meek defiance and muttering “OK OK” while he stomped along, was as toothless as any defense against Antetokounmpo could feel. This is a mistake if you consider this Celtics team. They don't mind falling down and it has served them well throughout what could be a memorable year.
Horford may be able to make better statistical decisions, but he has never delivered as well. His second half was one his best in 15 years. He scored 16 of his playoff-high 30 points in the fourth quarter. He is the oldest Celtic player to reach 30 in a playoff game, surpassing John Havlicek's feat in 1977.
Horford returned the favor to Antetokounmpo by hitting a dunk to erase Bucks' lead, and then following up with an elbow that crushed the two-time MVP to court. It was a technical foul, but Horford felt great.
“Anytime Al can go back in time and look like his former self, it's a great moment for everybody.” [excited]Tatum stated, “It's a great feeling.” “It was a lot of fun, and everyone has to play with it.”
Horford performed as his steady defenseman, always in the right spot and following the basics. Horford was on the Bucks in Game 4, shooting 7 of 20. Antetokounmpo was only 4-of-12 when Horford was on him. Horford gained strength as Antetokounmpo became tired. He logged almost 43 minutes.
“I'm so thankful for this. Horford explained that he prepared for these moments last summer and made every effort to stay healthy. “These were moments that I was privileged to be a part.”
After a disappointing season with Horford, the Thunder might have assumed that Horford was the reason they stopped playing them last season. Philadelphia 76ersIn 2019, the Thunder signed what was seen as a risky, long-term contract. Horford was simply playing too well. The Thunder, in rebuilding mode, wanted to play younger men and lose.
Similar to a rejuvenated gap year in OKC Chris PaulHe made the playoffs before he retired. Phoenix SunsHorford has demonstrated throughout the campaign that he is still a valuable contributor to the team after his first season with them. The success of Game 4 and what's been happening throughout the second half of this season is proof of his value. It was also a smart move by Brad Stevens, the Celtics president, to bring Horford back to the team after his first stint from 2016 to 2019.
All of this.
Horford stated, “I was watching the playoffs last year and not knowing what my next steps were,” “I was just looking for an opportunity.”