The year 2022 has fallen like a blessing for the Boston Celtics team. The mark of those coached by Ime Udoka, the debuting coach, since the start of the new year is an impressive 21 wins and four losses.
And while it is true that the visible heads in the offensive aspect have been Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, in the line that the Celtics have cemented their success is in defense.
During that span, his defensive rating is 102.1, nearly six points ahead of the second-place Miami Heat (107.2).
Al Horford has had a lot to do with that rally that has the Celtics just a half game out of second place in the Eastern Conference after struggling for a play-in position in the first part of the season.
In Sunday’s 124-104 win over the Denver Nuggets, Horford had six points, five rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes of action.
Modest numbers on offense, but combined with Robert Williams III and Grant Williams to control repeat MVP candidate, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
The Serb had 23 points and eight rebounds, but was only 8 of 23 shooting, including 5 of 19 in the first half.
“We lost because of me. It is very simple. Maybe I forced the situation. I thought I had easy baskets and I didn’t. They defended me very well”, he acknowledged after the game. While being defended by the Dominican, Jokic scored 12 points, but was below 50 percent shooting from the field (five of 11 attempts).
A veteran of 35 years and 15 seasons in the league, Horford has elevated his game in the second half of the season and along with his improvement has also elevated his team’s.
On March 13, he set a personal record with five steals against the Dallas Mavericks.
On March 3, he tied his season high with 21 points and set a season high with 15 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Before, he had captured 13 rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets (February 24) and another 12 against the Charlotte Hornets (two February).
Horford ranks sixth in the league in the defensive rating department (102.9), but he’s not alone.
Fifth place goes to Brown (102.7), but seventh is Tatum (102.9) and eighth is Williams III (103.3).
And the point guard of the group is Marcus Smart, another player known for his dedication on the defensive end.
At an average of 28.8 minutes per game, Horford is putting up 10.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
His contribution on both sides of the pitch has been decisive in the start of the green team.
He did not have a good start to the campaign and many considered that he should be replaced in the starting lineup by Williams.
However, Udoka kept him as a starter while he got the offensive rhythm. And it was thanks to his contributions to the defense that he was able to sustain the confidence of his coach.
Horford has averages of 6.0 defensive rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 0.7 steals to complement his contributions for the Celtics.
And it is that Horford has begun to have better percentages in his three-point shooting, which makes the Celtics’ offense more dangerous by leaving the field open for the skilled Tatum and Brown.
As they operate on their offensive executions, Horford can do damage with the long shot or set up a good pass to Williams III near or over the basket for him to finish with a dunk. He’s not the best or the most important player, but Boston’s success owes a lot to him.
During the season, Horford has reached round figures in various categories such as 7,500 rebounds.
An important aspect of his game is the passing that has led him to over 3,000 this season.
The cash game player has also surpassed the 1,500 blocked shots and 750 steals mark this NBA season.