BOSTON — In the past few games alone, Al Horford has been an absolute marksman of a shooter.
The Boston Celtics big man has made himself a threat this season with the way he has stretched his shooting out to the perimeter. The challenge that poses for opposing teams was apparent in the C’s 117-101 dismantling of the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their second-round NBA playoff series.
Horford is shooting 62 percent from the field this postseason, with a 47.4 clip from 3-point territory. In Monday’s win, Horford dropped 26 points while going 10-for-12 from the field, hitting two of his three attempts from beyond the arc. That comes on the heels of a 26-point performance on 13-for-17 shooting in Game 7 of the C’s first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
For Boston head coach Brad Stevens, a genuine desire for Horford to be a knockdown shooter in the NBA is the reason for all this shooting success. As such, what he’s doing hardly is a surprise.
“He works hard every day. He comes in and he’s put a lot of time in on his shooting, and I think I’ve seen it — I feel like he’s really, just really locked in,” Stevens said. “He’s done a good job of knowing when to roll and post and play kind of an interior spot, and then knowing when to pop and space and those types of things.
“He’s — I said this at the beginning of the year — he’s gone from a very good mid-range shooter in the league to a good three-point shooter to a very good 3-point shooter. Now he’s just an excellent shooter,” Stevens continued. “Like — he can really shoot the ball. If you go sit under the rim while he’s shooting it in practice, it’s like the last two games. I mean it’s just over and over it goes in. He works hard at it, deserves to make it, and obviously we love when he shoots it.”
In the the win over the Sixers, Horford cited the Celtics’ overall defensive effort as what helped jumpstart him and the offense.
“I just think that defensively,” Horford said, “we did a good job really containing them as best we could and just tried to play with some pace at the other end. I just felt like it worked to our advantage tonight.”
And while Horford was reticent to admit that he was in control on offense, he would acknowledge that Philly’s defense — which was porous at multiple points throughout the game — allowed him to take advantage of opportunities on offense.
“I wouldn’t say in control,” Horford said. “I just think that whatever the defense gives us that’s what we’re trying to take. And I was put in positions to make plays tonight, and I was able to do that.”
With his performance Monday, Horford now leads the C’s with 19.1 points per game this postseason. And as injuries continue to plague the Celtics, the big man has done a quality job stepping up and becoming a featured scorer for Boston.