2022 Playoffs: East Final | Heat (1) vs. Celtics (2)

Celtics center Al Horford reaches Finals at long last

The 35-year-old big man had waited 14 seasons and an NBA-record 141 career playoff games to reach The Finals.

Al Horford postgame

Al Horford discusses his feelings after Boston's Game 7 victory over Miami.

Al Horford is in The Finals after playing more postseason games prior to getting there than anyone in NBA history.

The Celtics’ veteran center had logged 141 playoff games without advancing past the conference finals, a league record finally broken after Boston’s Game 7 victory over Miami on Sunday.

When the final buzzer sounded, Horford was immediately overcome by the long-awaited moment. The 15-year veteran collapsed to the floor and screamed repeatedly, pounding the hardwood before rising to be embraced by Celtics teammates and staffers.

The five-time All-Star has missed the playoffs just twice since being drafted third overall by Atlanta in 2007, but came up one series short with the Hawks (once) and Celtics (twice) in his deepest postseason runs.

“It’s been a great journey,” Horford admitted. “Lot of battles. Obviously I’ve never been able to get it [until now], but a lot of great teammates along the way.”

Boston re-acquired Horford via trade last offseason, and the 35-year-old’s defense, size and leadership wound up being exactly what the franchise needed to return to The Finals for the first time since 2010.

“When he came back, it gave us a sense of security,” said Celtics guard Marcus Smart. “He’s selfless. Al couldn’t care less about the numbers. He cares about the wins and his team.”

“Nobody deserves it more than this guy on my right,” added Celtics forward Jaylen Brown. “I’m proud to be able to share this moment with a veteran, a mentor, a brother, a guy like Al Horford, man.”

Veteran big man Al Horford and coach Ime Udoka have proven crucial to Boston making its way to the 2022 NBA Finals.

In addition to shedding his own Finals-less streak, Horford also becomes the first player to represent the Dominican Republic in The Finals, a fact he enthusiastically celebrated while vacillating between Spanish and English when asked about the achievement.

“We’re here in Miami really close to D.R.,” Horford said. “I know my family’s happy. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s watching. The country was watching, I know everybody was there. They were sending me pictures. They were ready for this. We’re enjoying this one.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.