Brad Stevens Praises Al Horford As Anchor Of Celtics Elite Defense

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by on at 7:23PM

Photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON — Al Horford was the backbone of the Boston Celtics’ defense this season, a unit that ranked No. 1 in the NBA as measured by defensive efficiency.

Horford was recognized for his impressive defensive play Wednesday when he was named to the NBA All-Defense second team.

“His awareness is elite,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Horford before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night. “He knows every action in the league that anybody would possibly run. He understands the right time to give help, when it’s not. Just simple things. Like when he and (Aron) Baynes are back in transition, they’re back at the nail or the top of the key, and they are in a stance and taking up so much space. Just that idea of making the floor appear crowded to start a possession is enormous. And then being able to anchor and communicate our defense through the action while still usually guarding the best forward on the other team. It’s really hard.

“This year I think he took even more steps,” Stevens continued. “Last year we didn’t try him on Giannis (Antetokounmpo), we didn’t try him on guys like Ben Simmons. This year, those have been his matchups every other night because the league continues to get smaller and faster and more skilled at power forward. You go through the playoffs and you have to guard Giannis, Ben Simmons and Kevin Love. There’s a reason why he’s all-defense.”

Other Celtics who received votes for the all-defensive teams were guard Marcus Smart and guard/forward Jaylen Brown.

Stevens believes several Celtics had all-defense caliber seasons, but noted they’re more concerned with how the team is performing as a whole and winning as many games as possible.

I think those guys are motivated by team success. Their impact on team success and our defense speaks for itself,” Stevens said.

“I don’t think they’ll lose sleep over an award or not. To me, (Horford and Smart) easily are all-defensive players. I thought Aron Baynes had an all-defensive year as well. I realize you can’t take multiple people from one team, maybe that’s the deal. Those guys all, along with our young guys, everyone was really committed on that end of the floor all year. And it was led by those three guys.”

The Celtics will need stellar defense for the remainder of the playoffs as they battle LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in what has become a best-of-3 in the conference finals entering Game 5 at TD Garden.

Boston allowed more than 110 points in each of the last two games in Cleveland, both of which the Celtics lost.

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