On fumes, in the clouds
Hours after Al Horford said he wasn’t sure he had 40-plus minutes in him, minutes after he had finished playing more than 46 minutes against the Celtics, the Hawks center admitted that he was struggling at the end of Game 6.
And that might have been the difference Thursday night and why the Celtics were able to advance into the second round with an 83-80 victory.
With 2.3 seconds to go and a 2-point Celtics lead, Horford stepped to the free throw line for two shots. He missed the first. Then, strangely, he made the second one, despite the fact the Hawks had no timeouts remaining and would still be down even if he were successful.
“I didn’t really think about it,’’ Horford said. “That’s probably something that I should have given some thought. The first one felt good, and I was just kind of surprised when I missed it.
“Looking back I probably should have tried to miss the second one.’’
On Tuesday, in his second game back from a torn pectoral muscle that had kept him out since Jan. 11, Horford played a whopping 41 minutes to lead the Hawks to a season-saving 87-86 win.
But he was a shell of that player in the first three quarters of Game 6. He had just 4 points in that span. He did have seven rebounds and four assists, but also seven turnovers.
He wasn’t himself.
“I was dragging, to be honest, most of the game,’’ Horford said. “Then in the fourth I kind of had to dig down deep. I was like, ‘Let’s make one more big run at this. Let’s try to win this game.’ And that’s kind of what fueled me throughout that fourth quarter. I was fatigued, but I knew that the team needed me out there.’’
In the final 12 minutes, when he didn’t come off the court, Horford led all scorers with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, with two more rebounds.
“I felt that I had to pick the offense up at the end of the game, and it was a little frustrating for me to get there at the end and have a chance to tie it and send it to overtime,’’ Horford said.
“But I don’t feel guilty, because I played as hard as I could. I left it out on the court. It didn’t go the way that we wanted, but I know that we gave it all we had.’’
No sore loser
The Hawks’ Josh Smith had some kind words for the Celtics fans at TD Garden on Thursday. “They have some of the best fans in the whole entire league,’’ Smith said. “You go out, look at the stands, there’s nothing but Celtics jerseys. I don’t see a trace of red in there. Understanding that the fans are that passionate, it adds the extra advantage for them.’’