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:
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.