Here’s a pro tip for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks — don’t get Al Horford mad.
Erupting in the fourth quarter, Horford scored 16 of his playoff career-high 30 points in the final period to help lead Boston to a 116-108 Game 4 victory over Milwaukee. The series is now tied up at 2-2 and shifts to Boston for Game 5 on Wednesday.
Horford’s surprising offensive onslaught seemed to have originated from a play early in the third quarter. Antetokounmpo threw down a one-handed dunk on the Celtics veteran big man and then afterwards, taunted him with a sneering stare down.
Antetokounmpo was issued a technical foul for taunting on the play. Horford though was unphazed. He simply stared right back at Antetokounmpo and just nodded his head as he walked back up the court. And according to Horford’s sister, this was when her brother locked in.
This is where the Bucks f*cked up 😂 I know that look… He was pissed.
— Anna Horford (@AnnaHorford) May 10, 2022
After that exchange, Boston outscored Milwaukee 68-54 the rest of the way as Horford would just not let his team lose.
“The way he was looking at me and the way he was going about things, it didn’t sit right with me,” Horford told reporters postgame. “And yeah, that sort of flipped a switch at that moment.”
How Al Horford scored a playoff career high
Horford definitely flipped a switch as his second half performance directly resulted in Boston picking up the win. He was simply amazing, showcasing the all-around game that earned him five All-Star nods throughout his career by hitting big shots when his team needed it.
Horford finished the game with 30 points on an extremely efficient 11-of-14 from the field (78.6 percent) and 5 for 7 from three (71.4 percent). The veteran big man also recorded eight rebounds, three assists and a block in over 41 minutes of action.
Horford’s 30 points was a playoff career high and so was his five made three-pointers. An amazing feat considering his age (35 years old) and the fact that Game 4 was the 132nd playoff game of his 15 year career.
Al Horford’s dunk on Giannis ignites huge 4th quarter
With Boston trailing by seven points early in the fourth, Horford went to work.
He started the quarter by swishing home a foul line jumper. Horford then followed that up by emphatically throwing down a massive dunk on Antetokounmpo, giving the Bucks superstar a taste of his own medicine.
Adding insult to injury, Antetokounmpo fouled Horford on the play and also got elbowed by the Celtics veteran as well.
The throwdown gave Horford even more juice as he kept flowing offensively, making big basket after big basket.
Horford nailed two of his five three-pointers in the fourth and also knocked down two shots inside to give him 16 points in the fourth, tying his career high for points in any quarter (regular season or playoffs).
Thanks to Horford’s fourth quarter exploits, Boston scored 43 points in the period, tying a franchise record for the most points in a quarter during a playoff game. Boston previously scored 43 points in a 120-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in 2002.
Al Horford’s defense on Giannis
When he wasn’t dunking on the Bucks superstar, Horford was locking Antetokounmpo up defensively.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, when he was the primary defender on Anteokounmpo, Horford held the Bucks All-Star to 4-of-12 shooting. And for the series, Horford has held Antetokounmpo to just 30.6 percent shooting.
Giannis is 15-49 (30.6%) when guarded by Horford this series.
He is 35-65 (53.8%) when guarded by any other Celtic. pic.twitter.com/82fx23v13t
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 10, 2022
To be fair, Antetokounmpo had a monster third quarter and finished the game with 34 points on 14-of-32 shooting (43.8 percent). But Horford just made life difficult for the 27-year-old superstar, bothering him all night and funneling him to exactly where Boston’s defensive schemes wanted him to be.
Al Horford trade with OKC
With Horford’s turn-the-clock-back performance, it’s worth looking back at the trade that brought him back to Boston at the start of the season.
In his first move in his new role as Celtics president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens traded disgruntled guard Kemba Walker, the No. 16 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft (Alperen Sengun) and a 2025 second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick.
Horford played for Stevens in Boston from 2016-2019, signing with the team as a marquee free agent. He then signed with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019. But Horford ended up not being a great fit next to Joel Embiid, so the Sixers traded him to the Thunder in a deal centered around veteran swingman Danny Green in 2020.
Like in Philadelphia, Horford’s tenure in Oklahoma City only lasted a year. He ended up playing just 28 games and ended up sitting the majority of the season, acting as a veteran voice in the locker room as the Thunder focused on developing the youth on the roster.
But while it looked like Horford’s career was perhaps nearing an end, he’s been rejuvenated in Boston, becoming a reliable presence on both ends of the court for the Celtics.
And as we saw in Game 4, Horford still has plenty left in the tank.