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."

Wojnarowski: C's, Pacers talking Nets pick for George

Wojnarowski: C's, Pacers talking Nets pick for George

Often times reporting something can shake something loose from another source. That might have been the case Thursday morning. 

Just eight minutes after Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Celtics and Pacers were not in advanced discussions on Paul George because of Boston’s unwillingness to deal the Nets’ 2017 first-round pick, he sent a follow-up saying sources had indicated that the pick was indeed in play. 

George, 26, will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season. 

O'Connor: Zizic would go top-10 in 2017 draft

O'Connor: Zizic would go top-10 in 2017 draft

It seems the Celtics can throw yet another piece onto their treasure trove of assets. 

The Celtics stashed two of their first-round picks from the 2016 draft overseas and in the process have seen 23rd overall pick Ante Zizic establish himself as a very promising NBA prospect. 

The Croatian center, currently playing in the Turkish League, has boosted his stock with a strong season in what’s expected to be his last before joining the Celtics. Appearing on Toucher and Rich Thursday morning, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said that Zizic has improved to the point that he would be a top-10 pick in the 2017 draft. “He looks really good,” O’Connor said. “I liked him last year when I first watched him. I thought, ‘Good energy big man. He’ll have a solid career,’ but then the more you watch him, the more you see. 

“This year, he’s really taken a step forward. All his strengths look better. All the things he was already good at like screening, rebounding and rim-protection, he looks better. But he’s also starting to flash a little bit of a mid-range jumper, and he’s never had bad mechanics, but now that shot’s starting to fall. So maybe he can be more than that energy big man. Maybe he’s a little bit more dynamic than that. 

“If I’m the Celtics, I value him as you’re getting a top-10 pick this yea. I think he’d go around nine or 10 in this draft.”