Sports May 16, 2024 | 8:12 am

Al Horford takes center stage at the TD Garden

Boston, U.S.- The TD Garden erupted in a thunderous ovation, epitomizing the mastery of Dominican player Al Horford on Wednesday.

In a display of veteran prowess blended with rookie hunger, the 37-year-old Horford orchestrated a remarkable performance, tallying 22 points, fifteen rebounds, and six three-pointers, propelling the Celtics to a resounding 113-98 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference second-round series.

Horford etched his name in history as the oldest player to achieve more than fifteen points, ten rebounds, and five three-pointers in a playoff game, guiding the Celtics to a decisive win.

Stepping onto the court as part of Joe Mazzulla’s starting lineup due to Kristaps Porzingis’ absence from injury, Horford showcased a vintage performance, arguably one of his career bests.

His excellence was reminiscent of his standout performance in 2022, where he came tantalizingly close to securing an NBA championship against the Golden State Warriors. Fast forward two seasons, and just days shy of his 38th birthday, he took center stage at the revered TD Garden in Boston.

As the clock wound down with 48 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Horford bid farewell to the court amidst a chorus of applause and chants, including some hailing him as the MVP, a testament to his unwavering professionalism both on and off the court.

Reflecting on the electrifying atmosphere, Horford expressed gratitude for the unwavering support of the fans, acknowledging the palpable connection and the boost it provided him and the team.

“It’s special when you hear the Garden. It’s something I don’t take for granted. The energy of our fans, the way they sang, I felt a lot of connection. That encourages me and the team,” Horford remarked during the post-match press conference. “I want to contribute energy, and the boys continued to trust me,” he added, acknowledging his teammates’ pivotal role in his success.

Amidst timeouts, Horford asserted his leadership, rallying the team with impassioned speeches, driven by the shared desire to clinch the series—a feat they had faltered in before. His sentiments echoed pride in the team’s resilience and determination.

With this victory, Horford secures his third consecutive appearance in the Conference finals, a milestone he cherishes deeply, underscoring the collective effort and dedication of the team.

“It’s special to reach the third Eastern finals in a row. It means a lot to me, I’m proud of the work we’re putting in. We continue working and thinking about what is best for the group,” Horford expressed, emphasizing the team’s relentless pursuit of excellence.

Beyond his offensive prowess, Horford showcased his defensive mastery, stifling his opponent, Darius Garland, who paled in comparison despite being fourteen years his junior.

Coach Joe Mazzulla commended Horford’s leadership and impact on the team, highlighting his contagious influence on his teammates.

With their ticket punched to the Eastern finals, the Celtics await the outcome of the series between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers, poised to continue their quest for NBA glory.

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