Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Though he’s not an elite rebounder, Horford can do just about everything else. Only three other players are averaging at least 15.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists during the postseason: LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Horford currently tops the NBA in playoff true shooting percentage (a measurement of shooting efficiency) while ranking fourth in 3-point percentage (56.7). He ranks third in overall playoff win shares, trailing only James and Kawhi Leonard; fifth in VORP, trailing only Leonard, James, James Harden and Draymond Green; and ninth in box plus/minus, if you prefer that statistic.
By any measure, Horford has played like a superstar through the first two rounds. Dock him points if you wish because he’s taking advantage of traditional centers who don’t want to chase him to the 3-point arc, but that’s kind of the point, right? He has been everything the Celtics needed after their offense got squeezed around Isaiah Thomas during two previous playoff appearances. Horford stretches the court to the arc, orchestrates offense from everywhere, and does it all while protecting the rim. His malleability gives life to Boston’s five-out attack.
It may have seemed like Al Horford didn’t miss during Boston’s 123-101 win over the Washington Wizards Wednesday night, but he did.
But if you watched the game, you know Horford’s scoring only tells part of the story.
All season, we’ve heard from a segment of fans and media that Al Horford wasn’t worth a maximum contract. The argument has been that he doesn’t score enough or rebound enough – as if a player must average 20 and 10 to justify a big salary.
Through 11 playoff games, Horford is still not a 20/10 guy, because that’s not who he is. But the evidence is clear that he is indeed worth the money. With all due respect to Isaiah Thomas, Al’s leadership, playmaking, and shot-making in this postseason have been the difference between another first-round failure and being on the cusp of the Eastern Conference finals. Last year, when Atlanta pressured IT, the Celtics had no alternatives to run the offense. This year, Horford is that alternative.
Big Al has especially stood out in this Washington series. While the Wizards are throwing all their defense at Isaiah, Horford has picked up any scoring slack by shooting 69.4% from the floor, including 58.8% from the arc. That’s jaw-dropping.
With that said, Horford is not a “box score player.” His contributions don’t necessarily show up on the score sheet. So I hope that people who dissed him while not watching all the regular season games are now tuning in for all the playoff contests, and finally seeing for themselves why Horford is valuable.
Herald – Buckley: Al Horford has money performance in Celtics’ win
CSNNE – Expect The Wizards To Make These Five Adjustments In Game 6
Sports Illustrated – John Wall Vs. Isaiah Thomas Is Just Getting Started
On Page 2: By this point in the season, you’re no longer a rookie
Brown leaped and, with one hand, corralled the ball before it reached Washington’s bank of assistant coaches. Hanging in the air, Brown looked upcourt, spotted Avery Bradley sprinting the other way, and tossed the ball with so much zip that he nearly overthrew Bradley, who managed to haul it in at the opposite 3-point line and then raced in alone for a two-handed jam.
On the Boston bench, Isaiah Thomas started excitedly stomping in Brown’s direction while screaming words of encouragement. These are the sort of glimpses of Brown and his obvious athleticism that leave teammates gushing about his potential. […]
“Nobody’s going to talk about him, but Jaylen Brown, his energy, defensively what he brought in the first and second quarter, were huge for us,” Horford said. “I think that he sustained the intensity that we had. I felt like he had a great game.”
With the fabled “coaching adjustments” that are made after each NBA playoff game, it’s hard to know what to expect as a series progresses. Jaylen Brown’s postseason experience speaks to just how unpredictable that can be.
Through Boston’s first 10 playoff games, the rookie saw the court sparingly. He twice played just one minute and also sat out an entire game. Only once did he get more than 12 minutes of playing time.
Then, suddenly, he was out there for 26 minutes on Wednesday night, playing solid defense and making good things happen, including one of the game’s signature plays:
Crazy thing was that, even with extended minutes, Jaylen took just three shots and didn’t score. Imagine the uproar if the Cs had lost (“He played 26 minutes and scored zip. What is Stevens doing?”) But winning cures everything, and there’s been no blowback at all.
Big props to the young man, too, for being ready when called upon. Not many of us expected Brown to be a contributor during a pivotal Game 5. Maybe he didn’t even expect it himself. And maybe he won’t play much tonight. But he got the job done when given the opportunity, and that’s an encouraging sign for his future.
And, finally: Is Wyc feeling lucky?
Not sure if Wyc has ever repped the Cs at the lottery, but perhaps he will turn out to be the lucky one to bring home the No. 1 pick. It’s never happened, and we’re damn sure due.
The Rest of the Links:
Sports Illustrated – All-NBA Teams: Toughest Calls, Biggest Regrets (writer picks IT for third team)