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Boston Celtics

Al Horford is having a historic postseason

Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42), from the Dominican Republic, and head coach Brad Stevens talk in the first half of game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Washington Wizards, Friday, May 12, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Remember a few weeks ago when Al Horford was getting bullied by Robin Lopez and the Boston Celtics found themselves down 0-2 against the eighth-seeded Chicago Bulls?

That feels like ages ago at this point, because Horford is now enjoying a historic postseason run and the Celtics are in the Eastern Conference Finals. All the overrated and overpaid talk has certainly died down.

Horford has never been a gaudy stat guy, and even now his basic numbers don’t appear to be that impressive. Playoff averages of 16.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists highlight his versatility and are really darn good (one of only four players to average 16/7/5 in these playoffs), but the scoring and rebounding numbers don’t look like anything special.

What’s truly eye-opening, though, has been his efficiency. Horford is shooting an incredible 63.9 percent overall, 58.3 percent from 3 and 78.3 percent on free throws thus far in the playoffs. That’s good for a 73.0 true shooting percentage, which is where the history comes in. He currently boasts the best single-postseason true shooting percentage of all time among players with at least 100 shot attempts:

Best Single-Postseason TS% With 100 FGA Or More
Rk Player Season Age Tm Lg FGA TS% FG 2P 2PA 3P 3PA FT FTA PTS FG% 2P% 3P% eFG% FT%
1 Al Horford 2016-17 30 BOS NBA 133 .730 85 64 97 21 36 18 23 209 .639 .660 .583 .718 .783
2 Ray Allen 2010-11 35 BOS NBA 109 .708 57 25 53 32 56 24 25 170 .523 .472 .571 .670 .960
3 Derek Fisher 2002-03 28 LAL NBA 102 .685 53 24 55 29 47 18 22 153 .520 .436 .617 .662 .818
4 Kawhi Leonard 2016-17 25 SAS NBA 202 .672 106 81 147 25 55 95 102 332 .525 .551 .455 .587 .931
5 Kevin McHale 1987-88 30 BOS NBA 262 .670 158 157 261 1 1 115 137 432 .603 .602 1.000 .605 .839
6 LeBron James 2013-14 29 MIA NBA 340 .668 192 157 254 35 86 129 160 548 .565 .618 .407 .616 .806
7 Michael Cooper 1984-85 28 LAL NBA 126 .665 71 63 100 8 26 48 52 198 .563 .630 .308 .595 .923
8 Chauncey Billups 2008-09 32 DEN NBA 197 .664 90 46 103 44 94 106 117 330 .457 .447 .468 .569 .906
9 Kevin Johnson 1994-95 28 PHO NBA 150 .663 86 81 140 5 10 71 84 248 .573 .579 .500 .590 .845
10 Courtney Lee 2014-15 29 MEM NBA 100 .663 55 41 70 14 30 22 23 146 .550 .586 .467 .620 .957
11 LeBron James 2016-17 32 CLE NBA 167 .663 93 71 120 22 47 67 92 275 .557 .592 .468 .623 .728
12 Tiago Splitter 2013-14 29 SAS NBA 100 .659 61 61 99 0 1 51 71 173 .610 .616 .000 .610 .718
13 Hakeem Olajuwon 1986-87 24 HOU NBA 179 .659 110 110 178 0 1 72 97 292 .615 .618 .000 .615 .742
14 James Donaldson 1987-88 30 DAL NBA 104 .657 68 68 104 0 0 22 37 158 .654 .654 .654 .595
15 Derek Harper 1994-95 33 NYK NBA 109 .657 56 29 62 27 47 18 24 157 .514 .468 .574 .638 .750
16 Darryl Dawkins 1983-84 27 NJN NBA 118 .654 66 66 115 0 3 70 83 202 .559 .574 .000 .559 .843
17 Stephen Curry 2016-17 28 GSW NBA 169 .653 81 42 75 39 94 56 63 257 .479 .560 .415 .595 .889
18 Manu Ginobili 2004-05 27 SAS NBA 286 .652 145 103 190 42 96 147 185 479 .507 .542 .438 .580 .795
19 Dwyane Wade 2009-10 28 MIA NBA 110 .650 62 47 73 15 37 27 40 166 .564 .644 .405 .632 .675
20 Danny Green 2013-14 26 SAS NBA 159 .650 78 30 58 48 101 9 11 213 .491 .517 .475 .642 .818
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/16/2017.

 

Here’s Horford’s postseason shot chart:

He’s shooting above league average in all four zones with volume attempts. His work at the rim and on 3s from above the break is downright nasty.

Things get even more absurd when you narrow it down to only the series against the Washington Wizards, which the Celtics just won in seven games.

Horford had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists while shooting 6 of 10 overall and 2 of 2 from 3 in the 115-105 Game 7 victory. That gave him averages of 16.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists on a shooting line of 67.6/60.9/70.0, which comes out to a true shooting percentage of 77.6.

What’s more impressive, the 14 of 22 on above-the-break 3s or 19 of 20 at the rim? Both numbers are from out of a video game.

In addition, Horford does many other things that don’t always show up in the basic box score. He’s an excellent screener who helps get Isaiah Thomas loose. He sometimes initiates offense as a point center. He’s the primary rim protector who helped limit John Wall’s effectiveness as the series went on. He’s never been dominant in any one area, but he does so many things well.

While Horford has always been a good player, his previous failures in the playoffs have often dominated the narrative regarding just how good he actually is. That narrative is up in flames at the moment.

However, the biggest challenge yet is coming in the form of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Horford has struggled facing Tristan Thompson in the past, and that can’t happen again if the Celtics are going to have any chance of competing in the Eastern Conference Finals. Don’t expect Horford to keep up this historic shooting pace, but don’t be surprised to see a better performance out of him against the Cavaliers this time around.

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