Al Horford had not started a game for the Atlanta Hawks since January, a torn pectoral muscle sidelining him until this weekend. With one game to get his bearings, Horford seemed as if back to his usual hard-working self Tuesday nights. And the results helped the Hawks extend their season.
Scoring inside and outside and providing a toughness that has been lacking, Horford led Atlanta to an 87-86 Game 5 win that moved them with 3-2 in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics.
It took a defensive stop in the waning seconds — Josh Smith and Horford prevented Rajon Rondo from getting off a shot after a steal — for the Hawks to exhale. When they caught their collective breath, they patted Horford on the back.
He had 19 points, 11 rebounds and so many hustle plays that were influential in the outcome. He was aided and abetted by Smith, the forward who had 13 points and 16 boards. Point guard Jeff Teague added 16 points, while Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams had 15 each.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 16 points a piece and Rondo had 13 points and 12 assists. Boston gets another chance to close out the Hawks in Game 6 in Boston.