Horford comes up big for Hawks

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Horford comes up big for Hawks

ATLANTA Al Horford isn't 100-percent healthy, and that's the scary part of all this if you're the Boston Celtics.

Horford, who missed all but 11 games during the regular season with a pectoral injury, came up with a monster game on Tuesday to keep the Hawks' season alive for another night with an 87-86 win.

Appearing in his second straight game, Horford was back in the starting lineup and showed why he's considered one of the more promising young big men in the NBA.

He tallied 19 points and 11 rebounds, the first double-double of this playoff series by someone for the Hawks not named Josh Smith.

"Al Horford was absolutely huge tonight," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. "He was a superman for us down the stretch."

He was pretty special for most of the 41 minutes he was on the floor, actually.

"He's an All-Star," said Paul Pierce. "He definitely was huge; just having his presence out there tonight, on the inside with his defense and rebounding."

Like Ray Allen when he came back from his right ankle injury earlier in the series, the Hawks aren't sure how much Horford can handle just yet.

Judging by the minutes he played in Game 5 and his production, he's closer to All-Star Horford than one might expect.

And what makes Horford so talented, is that he finds ways to contribute in several areas.

Horford's scoring and rebounding took center stage on Tuesday, probably the most important play he made involved him not even touching the ball.

With the Celtics down 87-86, Rajon Rondo stole a Josh Smith pass with about 10 seconds to play. He quickly pushed the ball up court with Smith and Horford already back defensively.

Horford soon switched out to guard Rondo, who was unable to turn the corner and get to the basket. That led to Rondo losing control of the ball, and Smith deflecting it out of bounds as time expired.

"I didn't want to lose the series that way, so I didn't want to let Rondo shoot a jumper over me," Horford said. "You're fighting for your life out there."

And Horford was fighting to catch his breath at times, which isn't all that surprising when you consider he's had such a long lay-off from playing.

"I was tired a little bit," he admitted. "But right now I feel fine. Maybe it's the adrenaline from the game and (Wednesday) it will be a different story, but right now I'm fine."

And so are the Hawks; about as well as you can be following a win that puts them essentially back where they were at the start of business on Tuesday - facing playoff elimination.

Now that the game shifts back to Boston, the Celtics will have a building full of their own fans to cheer them on.

But they'll also have to continue to contend with Horford who will once again look to be a difference-maker for the Hawks.

"Al makes a big difference," Rondo said. "He can guard anybody on the court."

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”