Celtics news 365: Al Horford more than average against Bulls

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 05: Al Horford
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 05: Al Horford /

Following a rough game against the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics big man Al Horford bounced back nicely in the team’s blowout win in Chicago. 

No Kyrie Irving, no problem.  The Boston Celtics jumped on the Chicago Bulls in the opening minutes of the game and never looked back.  Led by a motivated Al Horford, the C’s jumped out by as many as 37 points in thumping the Bulls 105-89.

The story of the otherwise uncontested matchup was how Horford came out aggressive in the game.  Following a minus-22 in Houston, the Celtics big man took some criticism for how he has played of late.

Given the fact that he is a Max player, his statistics so far this season hasn’t lived up to what his critics feel should be All-Star level numbers.  The game in Houston only magnified that argument, as Horford’s less than stellar play throughout the game was partly a reason the Celtics came up short.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Al Horford has never been known as a big scorer.  His defense, ability to pass the ball, and high-percentage shooting is what makes him an effective basketball player, especially on this Boston Celtics team.  So, forget the stats, if he isn’t doing those other things well, the team is not as successful.

Fans knows it, opponents know it and most importantly, Horford knows he has to increase his level of play for this team to go far.

"“I think personally I’m not playing at the level that I want to be playing at and doing the things that I can,” Horford said prior to the game against the Bulls, via the Boston Herald.  “And through all that, I always have to make sure that I stay consistent in what I do and bring to the team.”"

Like teammate Kyrie Irving acknowledges, its more how a team or player responds to adversity.  It was just the Chicago Bulls, but Horford turned that minus-22 against the Rockets into a plus-31 rating.  He was aggressive on both sides of the floor.  Not only did he regain his touch from the outside, he took the ball down low scoring 13 points and pulling down seven rebounds in 22 minutes of action.

Not staggering All-Star numbers, but the Celtics didn’t need it Monday night.  It’s how he elevated his game in other facets of the game that was encouraging.  Now, he just has to translate that play into the games in which the team really needs him.

Kyrie Irving could miss multiple games

 As referenced above, the Boston Celtics were without Kyrie Irving in Monday night’s game against the Bulls.

Related Story: Why Al Horford is team’s most valuable player

The All-Star point guard sat out the game due to left knee soreness.  According to Celtics coach Brad Stevens, Irving experienced the soreness throughout the game on Saturday night against the Rockets.

As a precautionary measure, Irving sat out the game for both rest and maintenance on a knee he had surgery on a couple of years ago.  While it is uncertain whether Irving will suit up when the team faces the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday night, it will not be surprising if he misses that game and future games.

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The Celtics would rather have Kyrie Irving available for the playoffs rather than risk losing him an extended period of time over the next few weeks.

Coach’s corner 

The impressive part about Monday night’s win in Chicago was how the team responded after a big game in Houston.

With Irving out, this could’ve been a major trap game for the Celtics.  However, the team didn’t let down and came out aggressive.  An aggressiveness their head coach was very happy with.

"“We were ready to play,” Stevens said following the game, via Celtics.com. “I thought our defense was good in that first half, obviously. I thought we were really flying around, covering for one another, playing the right way. And then we were aggressive in taking the ball to the basket—that opened up some threes. But I thought Portis (Bobby Portis) and Markkanen (Lauri Markkanen) have given people fits with their ability to shoot behind the line, and play the four/five. And so we tried our best to be proactive, and taking that away. But that’s easier said than done.”"

Next: 4 takeaways from Celtics easy win over the Bulls

The Boston Celtics next head to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves to conclude their current three-game road trip.