Al Horford on Finals Debut: ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Moment’

The last time Al Horford was on the national stage with this much on the line was during his time in college when he was fighting to win back-to-back national titles with Florida back in 2007. After 15 years in the NBA, Horford is finally back on that championship stage with the Celtics.

It’s almost as if Horford knew this was going to happen. In a way, you could sorta say he did. When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Horford back to Boston last summer, one of the first things he did was text Jayson Tatum to let him know he saw the Celtics’ potential and was looking forward to playing in the Finals.

“It’s one of these things that I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Horford said, “I know it’s different, but I played in a similar stage in college. Those type of games, I just felt comfortable out here, and I wanted to project that to the group.”

“I wanted to make sure that our guys came out here, play free, understand that this is just a game, and just go out there and have fun.”

Horford played a pivotal role in Boston’s 120-108 come-from-behind win over the Warriors. The five-time All-Star finished Game 1 with a team-high 26 points, six rebounds, and three assists on a Finals-debut record 6-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

The former Florida Gator choose the fourth quarter to shine the brightest in Boston’s win. Horford scored 11 points in the final frame, including back-to-back triples and a mid-range jumper, to give the Celtics a lead they would never give up. Horford’s key three-pointers powered a decisive 17-0 run that allowed Boston to outscore the Warriors 40-16 in the fourth.

“It was the way that we were moving the ball on offense,” Horford said per NBCSports. “Just being in those positions, I felt like the guys kept finding me time after time. Derrick White hit some tough shots there too. Get some looks, knock ’em down, that’s that.”

Boston didn’t allow a single Warrior field goal for nearly five minutes during that game-altering run. The Celtics’ shocking win to steal home-court advantage came on a night when Horford and Jaylen Brown (24 points, seven rebounds, five assists)had to carry the scoring load due to Tatum’s jumper being off on Thursday.

Even as Golden State built a lead as large as 15 through the first three-quarters, Boston was right there, bidding their time until they could strike. When they did, Golden State had no answers for Horford or Brown, who scored a combined 21 points when it mattered the most in Game 1.

“The group that started the fourth quarter, I think, did a great job setting the tone,” Horford said. “Jaylen attacking, Rob got a lob dunk, and that just kinda got us going, and from that point on, we felt like we’re gonna stay solid continue to fight, and that’s what we did.”

Horford’s confident prediction has come true nearly one year after that fateful trade. Boston is indeed back in the Finals after a grueling revenge tour through the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Celtics beat the Nets, Bucks, and Heat on their way to their first Finals trip since 2010. After Thursday’s Game 1 win, Horford has the Celtics in the driver’s seat, up 1-0 on the Warriors.

The Celtics and Warriors will play again on Sunday in Chase Center, with Boston looking to take a commanding 2-0 series lead as the series shifts to TD Garden.