Horford providing Hawks with big boost

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Horford providing Hawks with big boost

BOSTON When Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford got the green light to resume playing with the Hawks, his goal was to help in any way he could.

How does 40 minutes a night sound?

That wasn't exactly the goal for Horford or the Hawks. But two games into his return to the roster, that's exactly how things played out in Atlanta's 87-86 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 5 that kept their season alive.

Horford's 19-point, 11-rebound performance came in 41 minutes, significantly more court time than he or his head coach Larry Drew anticipated.

Will we see it again tonight?

Horford didn't sound too optimistic about a second straight game of 40-plus minutes.

"That might be a little bit of a stretch," Horford said. "I will, however, come out and give productive minutes. That's my whole thing. I want to have a positive impact on the game. But I'm going to need those guys to be ready, just in case.

"Back-to-back, 40-minute nights," Horford added, "I don't know about that."

Hawks coach Larry Drew had no idea of how much he would get from Horford, who had been out with a torn pectoral muscle since Jan. 11.

Josh Smith isn't totally shocked that Horford has been so effective after such a long lay-off.

"He has the freshest legs in the series," Smith said. "Why not play him? He's healthy. He feels good. He's contributing. The game that he had last game, the way he was helping us out . . . leave him out there."

No need to tell Drew that. He understands that the Hawks, while not wanting to put Horford's health in danger, will play him as long as Horford can go.

"He really has been a surprise," Drew said. "Having been out as long as he has and to play as if he hasn't missed a beat, says a lot about him."

Drew added, "I thought he could get out there and compete, but in short stretches. But he has shown an amazing amount of endurance. He's an amazing guy."

And while Horford doesn't anticipate having another game of 40-plus minutes tonight, he understands that the Hawks are in all-hands-on-deck mode which may require him to once again crack the 40-minutes played plateau.

"I'm saying I can't play 40, but if the game is going how it's going and I have to play it, I probably will," Horford said.

"It's an elimination game. I have to be ready for anything the coach calls."

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

BOSTON – When you look at Avery Bradley’s growth this season, seeing the tremendous strides he has made offensively is clear.

But at the heart of Bradley’s game remains a desire to dominate a matchup as a defender, something that was alive and well on Monday as he made his return to the floor after missing the four previous games with an Achilles strain.

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Bradley’s defense would prove instrumental in Boston’s 108-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.

He was 2-for-9 from the field and played nearly 33 minutes against Hornets which is just a couple minutes under his season average of court time.

Usually he’s responsible for providing a boost at both ends of the floor.

But considering his long lay-off, it was clear early on that he was locked in defensively more so than looking to get back on track shooting the ball.

“You take any type of games off in this league, your rhythm and all that you gotta get it back,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.

Even though his shots weren’t falling, Bradley was on top of his game defensively while guarding 6-foot-8 Nicolas Batum who is six inches taller but never was a factor on Monday.

Batum finished with eight points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens liked what he got out of Bradley in his return to action.

“I thought he (Bradley) was great,” Stevens told CSNNE.com. “He did everything we needed him to do. We knew there would be a little bit of rust (shooting the ball), but that’s part of you playing your way back into it.”

As far as Bradley’s stifling defense on Batum, Stevens said, “You have to do that against Batum. I thought Avery did a really good job of that. It’s a hard matchup no matter what way you go. Batum, giving up inches to him. He (Bradley) was there on the catch all night.”

And as Bradley gradually gets back into a flow, he’ll regain the form offensively that made him one of the NBA’s better two-way players this season.