Any discussion about the Boston Celtics over this holiday weekend was centered around the team meeting that took place after Friday’s dismal showing at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.
There was plenty more talk about it after the Celtics came out and blew the doors off the Charlotte Hornets Sunday night, winning 119-103 here at TD Garden in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. But what had a far bigger impact on the Celtics than a team meeting — both Sunday night and moving forward — was the return of Al Horford after a seven-game absence with a knee injury.
Horford has always been a player, going back to his first days in the league with the Atlanta Hawks more than a decade ago, who has filled in whatever gaps his team has needed him to. That’s no different in Boston, where Horford provides the Celtics with both elite passing and spacing at the center spot offensively — not to mention marshaling a defense that once again ranks among the NBA’s best.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale
His presence was a big part of why the Celtics beat the Bucks here in Boston on Nov. 1 — and it was no coincidence things were much different without him spacing the floor and contorting Milwaukee’s defense Friday night. Ditto Boston’s mastery over the Philadelphia 76ers the past two years — and why his return, coming on the eve of Boston’s rematch with Philadelphia in a Christmas Day showdown, couldn’t have come at a better time as far as the Celtics are concerned.
“It’s tough when there are so many guys in and out of the lineup and so many things [changing],” Horford said. “It puts a lot of pressure on some of our guys, so it’s just good we’re getting healthy. Marcus Morris being back, that’s huge for us, me being back obviously. [Aron] Baynes is out now but at least we are getting healthy again, so that is all going to help our offense, and help our team.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china
There have been plenty of things contributing to Boston’s wild swings back and forth throughout this season thus far. Arguably the biggest, though, has been Horford’s play. When he plays well — as he did in Boston’s run to the brink of the NBA Finals last season without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward — the Celtics are a far different team. This season, though, he has looked hampered by his balky knee, which Boston labeled as patellofemoral pain syndrome during his recent seven-game hiatus.
Between Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez, Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, and Indiana’s Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, each of the other contenders in the East has weapons at the pivot that Boston will need Horford to square off against — and, often, get the better of — if the Celtics want to be the team they were expected to be before this season began.