Al Horford closes tight contest with clutch fadeaway at the buzzer
Super Bowl Sunday celebrations were well under way in New England when Al Horford stole the show for a brief moment in TD Garden.
With the clock ticking down and the ball in his hands, Horford drove hard right, uncoiled left and propelled himself off one leg for a two-point dagger at the horn. His 15-footer handed the Celtics a 97-96 win over Portland and gave New England sports fans everywhere a perfect pre-game shot of adrenaline with just hours until the NFL Championship kickoff.
Horford isn’t the Celtics’ go-to option for scoring, but with the game on the line this season, he’s been the man whose number they’ve called when Kyrie isn’t available. The five-time All-Star is no newcomer to big shots. He hit a game winner against the Rockets earlier this season and he drained a buzzer-beater as a member of the Atlanta Hawks during the 2013-2014 regular season.
Neither team shot particularly well, but the Blazers maintained control of the lead for most of the game. Although Portland relinquished the lead with a third of the final frame left to play, their All-Star point guard Damian Lillard pushed the Blazers back in front 96-95 with 7.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
C.J. McCollum led the Blazers with 22 points, but the elite backcourt duo wasn’t enough to conquer the Boston Celtics stingy defense. McCollum’s production tapered down in the fourth quarter and the Celtics 11-0 run down the stretch made the Blazers demise nearly inevitable.
Boston’s victory was walk thought the park, they had more than a few notable names sitting out with injuries. Irving missed his third straight game with a bruised quad, Marcus Morris missed his second in a row with a hip injury and Shane Larkin was out for a fourth straight of his own.
The Celtics have cooled down significantly after their scorching start to the 2017-2018 season. While their win percentage has dipped slightly, Boston still remains a remarkable 15-5 against the Western Conference.
Of course they won’t face meaningful competition from the Western Conference unless they advance to the 2018 NBA Finals. They’re not a sure bet to advance that far, but if they do, don’t be surprised if they give the Golden State Warriors, or their unlikely usurpers a run for their money.