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Al Horford sets tone as Boston Celtics pick up 12th straight win

The old man in Boston is rolling these days, and we’re not talking about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The man who orchestrated the Celtics’ 12th straight win Sunday in Boston was veteran big man Al Horford. The backbone of the hottest team in basketball, Horford did his work against Toronto as Boston played without Gordon Hayward (out for the season) and Kyrie Irving (facial fracture).

* Recap: Celtics 95, Raptors 94

Horford’s young teammates appreciate the 31-year-old’s actions as he facilitates on both ends of the floor for himself and others. He’s the “old man” of this young group and clearly one of the reasons these young Celtics are winning all the time. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald details the appreciation Horford has inspired:

It would be hard for anyone to play as Al Horford did yesterday under his circumstances. He missed the previous two games in the NBA’s concussion protocol, but there he was in the first quarter backing down Serge Ibaka to score, then driving in hard from the left for a dunk. Horford took nine shots and made eight of them on the way to 21 points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals in 33 minutes. He hit his only trey and is now shooting 48.7 percent from beyond the arc for the season.

And with the game on the line late, he switched to DeMar DeRozan and forced the Raptors star into one of his two key misses in the last 20 seconds.

“You know, it’s been years of just working on my game and trying to play this new way,” Horford said. “This is the style the NBA is shifting toward, and it’s taken me a couple of years to get comfortable and play like this. Young Al Horford couldn’t shoot 3’s.”

Young Al Horford aside, last year’s Al Horford, wasn’t this assertive with his offense until maybe the playoffs. But while he’s still facilitating for others and playing the right way, he’s also quicker to the trigger, whether it’s an outside shot or a drive.

“Definitely,” said Marcus Smart, who got the start for Kyrie Irving (facial fracture) and responded with 14 points and nine assists. “That’s what we wanted from Al. His matchups are very tough, because they don’t know whether to put a regular 5 on him or a smaller guy. We try to exploit that. We want Al to look more for his (shot), especially in the post when it’s one-on-one. He has to look for it.”

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