Horford comes up big for Hawks

Horford comes up big for Hawks
May 9, 2012, 4:58 am
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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."