Al Horford’s Return Fuels Hawks Over The Celtics in Atlanta

This was it for the Hawks. They were at home and on the brink of elimination, and even though the coaching staff and team doctors had agreed that Horford would only play 15-20 minutes in his first game, the Hawks had to take all chances and kept him in for 31 minutes. The Hawks had the season on the line and there was simply no time or space for playing it safe. At the end, Horford scored 19 points for the night, including Atlanta's final two baskets and managed to stop Rajon Rondo in the last 10 seconds of the match to give the Hawks an 87-86 victory over Boston. The Boston Celtics had a chance to close the deal in Atlanta and take some well-deserved extra days of work before the round 2 of the NBA Playoffs began. Leading the series 3-1, and building up on their momentum, the Doc Rivers went out to Atlanta hoping for a win.

Let's be absolutely clear about this: it is no secret that a team commanded with players in their mid thirties need to get all the rest they can if they want to once again make it into the Playoffs. The Celtics had the manpower to win this game, they have been dominating the paint against the Hawks and they had already won a game in the Phillips Arena, so winning on the road wasn't such a big issue. Little did they know that Al Horford, the Hawks center would finally be back from an injury that had kept him away of the basketball courts since January. And little did the Celtics know that he was going to come out of a 4-month recovery with not signs of rust buildup. The Celtics had a chance to clinch the series when Rajon Rondo stole Josh Smith's inbounds pass with 10 seconds remaining. He sprinted down the court, trying to set up the winning shot.

That's when Horford jumped to defend him and basically pushed him into the corner and forced him to throw a terrible pass that was deflected by Josh Smith as time expired. Even Rondo said in the press conference that the credit went to Harford, who managed to corner him and keep the Celtics from finding one of its clutch players. "I feel awful the game ended the way it ended, because I thought Rondo willed us back into the game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 16 points apiece. Rondo had 13 points and 12 assists and 5 steals that were vital in keeping Boston in the fight for the win. Josh Smith, on the other hand, clearly looked limping a bit towards the end by a sore knee that kept him out of Game 3. Despite the injury he managed 13 points and 16 rebounds. Jeff Teague had 16 points, while Johnson and Marvin Williams had 15 points each. This was certainly a much better performance than what the Hawks showed in game 4 when the Celtics destroyed them 101-79 at the Garden.