BOSTON (CBS) -- Al Horford is as mild mannered as they come. The Celtics big man made it a point to downplay the "revenge" aspect of Wednesday night's game against his former team, but it was evident from the jump that Horford had a lot of extra juice against the Philadelphia 76ers.
They are, after all, the team that gave up on him just one year after he signed a four-year, $109 million deal with the team. Now he's back in Boston on that very contract, and Horford and the Celtics couldn't be happier with the arrangement.
Wednesday's game was Horford's first against his former squad since they traded him away to the Oklahoma City after the 2019-20 season. Brad Stevens rescued him from basketball purgatory this offseason, and Horford has done nothing but produce for the Celtics. He did it in a number of ways Wednesday night, helping the team to a much-needed 88-87 victory.
Horford was at the top of his game on both ends of the floor against the 76ers. He had a look in his eyes (those beautiful eyes) to start the game offensively, attacking the 76ers and scoring seven of Boston's first 11 points. He scored just three points the rest of the way, but his impact was everywhere else on the floor.
Meaning, Horford continued his fatherhood of Philadelphia big man Joel Emiid. No one can truly stop Embiid, but Horford has had a knack for it, which was part of the reason Philadelphia was so eager to steal him away from Boston two-and-a-half years ago. Horford once again owned Embiid on Wednesday night.
Embiid started the night 1-for-9 and finished with just 13 points off 3-for-17 shooting. Two of Horford's five blocks on the night were on Embiid in the paint. The Philly monster still made a massive impact on the game by grabbing 18 rebounds and dishing out six assists, but the Boston defense flustered Embiid all night.
Horford was in charge of locking him up for the most part, but he was not alone in those Embiid duties. Jaylen Brown and Grant Williams saw some time on him, while Enes Freedom also banged bodies with the big guy at points. Overall, it was one of the team's best defensive efforts of the season.
While Jayson Tatum was spectacular with 26 points and 16 rebounds, and Dennis Schroder had some really clutch buckets late in the game on the way to a 13-point effort off the bench, it was the Boston defense that won the game. The Celtics needed to make one final stop in the end, and got it thanks in large part to Horford, who locked up Tobias Harris off Philly's inbound and didn't let him get anywhere near the rim in the one-point affair. Harris gave the ball up to Georges Niang in the corner, whose last-second bid was blocked by Robert Williams.
Boston improved to 12-10 with the gusty, albeit occasionally ugly, victory. It was a gratifying result for everyone involved, but no one was more elated than Horford. He admitted after the game that his one year in Philly was tough, and it was even harder when they gave up on him. That frustrating season with the 76ers and being sent to cast off to Oklahoma City was a massive hit to his reputation.
"No question about it. But it's on me," he said. "It was my decision to leave [the Celtics], and it was like, how are you going to respond when you've been faced with adversity? Being down, being talked down about and those things.
"I was written off and I'm glad I got another opportunity in a place where I want to be," he said. "No question about it, there's a lot of satisfaction being back here and playing at a high level."
Horford is back in his happy place, making an impact for the Boston Celtics.
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