WASHINGTON – While Isaiah Thomas has been filling up the headlines this postseason, Al Horford has been filling up the box scores.
Horford has put together an impressive, 11-game playoff run that has featured nine consecutive games of at least 11 points as well as a team-leading average of 6.1 assists per game. The big man is averaging 15.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game thus far in the Playoffs, all while shooting 64.0 percent from the field and 56.7 percent from long distance.
It’s the passing, however, that has stood out the most to head coach Brad Stevens.
“I think the ability for him to pass the ball has been one of the most important things to our team,” Stevens said via a conference call Thursday afternoon upon arriving in Washington.
Horford’s vision and passing abilities are unrivaled among true big men who are still playing at this point of the season. In fact, his vision and passing abilities are near the top of the list among all players who are still playing at this point of the season.
Horford is one of only five players whose teams are still alive in this postseason who are averaging at least 6.1 APG. He is joined by John Wall (10.5 APG), James Harden (8.6 APG), Draymond Green (7.3 APG) and LeBron James (7.1 APG).
Having that type of passing ability at the center position has provided Boston with a high level of versatility. Stevens can run the offense through Horford and confidently expect that the right play will be made far more often than not. This allows players such as Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder to play off of the ball, where they are far more dangerous.
Stevens also doesn’t underestimate the subtle impacts of Horford’s passing and decision-making. It changes the way his teammates see and play the game.
“He’s so reliable,” Stevens said, “that I think that anytime you’re playing with guys that are that reliable, that has a calming influence in and of itself.”
It’s no coincidence that the Celtics, in their first season with Al Horford on board, are now one win away from appearing in the Conference Finals for the first time since 2012. Horford’s demeanor, leadership, and most of all, unique skill set, are propelling the Celtics through the Playoffs.
The big man isn’t receiving loads of attention for his play, but that’s fine with him; Thomas and the rest of the Celtics can enjoy the headlines. Horford will just continue to quietly stuff the stat sheet and set the C’s up for success with his vision and passing abilities.