2024 NBA Finals

Al Horford not about to 'think ahead' with his 1st NBA title within reach

In his 17th season, the 38-year-old veteran is just 1 victory away from his 1st championship -- and Boston's unprecedented 18th.

Al Horford and the Celtics can become just the 10th team in NBA Finals history to sweep a series for a championship.

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DALLAS — Six Eastern Conference Finals berths and two NBA Finals appearances in 184 postseason games for Boston Celtics big man Al Horford.

That’s after the 38-year-old snatched two NCAA titles (2006-07) at Florida.

Yet for all the winning scribbled into his hoops resume over a 17-year career in which he missed the playoffs just twice, Horford hasn’t yet reached the goal of winning an NBA championship. He’s finally close after the Celtics seized a 3-0 lead over Dallas in the NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV.

Yet the veteran continues to temper hints of enthusiasm for what’s to come.

“We’re not allowing ourselves to think ahead,” Horford said Thursday just before hitting the practice floor. “We’re just trying to lock in on what we have to do. The job is not done yet.”

Teams taking a 3-0 advantage in a best-of-seven series own a record of 156-0, including 14-0 in the Finals. Boston last found itself leading 3-0 in the NBA Finals 65 years ago, when it swept the Lakers for the third of its 17 championships.

The Celtics now stand at the precipice of becoming just the 10th team in NBA Finals history to sweep a series for a championship. A Game 4 victory on Friday (8:30 ET, ABC) would give Boston an NBA-record 18th title, breaking a tie with the Lakers (17) for the most in league history.

But first, Horford wants to make sure the Celtics take extra care in focusing on the small details that should lead to the squad securing the — near-30 pound Larry O’Brien Trophy. Boston conducted a film session Thursday before gathering on the floor at American Airlines Center for practice.

Horford maintains the game plan now is all about “just focusing on the work.”

“We have to remain with a sense of urgency,” stressed Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla. “We have to know that we’re just as vulnerable as anybody else in this situation, and how we handle that will determine our fate.”

Star forward Jayson Tatum pointed out the team’s careful approach stems from past failures in the postseason. Boston watched a 2-1 series lead over Golden State disintegrate two years ago in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors celebrated their seventh championship right there on the TD Garden floor in Boston after a rough series that ended in six games.

“From our experiences over these past couple of years, the thing we’ve really gotten better at is not relaxing, not being complacent,” Tatum said. “From game to game or series to series, we always want more. Even now up 3-0, nobody is celebrating anything.”

Especially not Horford, one of just three active players in the NBA to participate in 149 or more postseason games with at least one Finals appearance and no championship ring to show for it (James Harden and Chris Paul are the other two).

“I give the glory to the Lord because he’s put me in this position,” Horford said. “It’s more than me. We have a lot of fans, a lot of people. They have been waiting for this opportunity. We’ve been through a lot of adversity as a team these past few years. To be at the cusp of doing this, it’s something special.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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