“That’s what we need him to do,” star guard Isaiah Thomas said. “He’s a hell of a player. Even the stat sheet doesn’t explain how good of a player he is sometimes where he’s not scoring or rebounding, he’s doing a lot of things to help out everybody else on this team whether he helps on defense, whether that be making the right play on offense, he’s a complete basketball player. When he plays like he did tonight, especially in the second half, nine times out of 10 we usually win those games.”
If Horford had his faults during the regular season, he is playing past them now. He is one of the few players on the Celtics’ roster with extensive playoff experience; he reached the conference finals two years ago and was part of a Hawks team that beat the Celtics last year to advance to the second round.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra remembers the practice well. It was after a loss against the Bucks on Jan. 13, dropping Miami to at 11-30 overall, and the team had four days before its game versus the surging Rockets.
Sputtering a bit down the stretch, San Antonio lost four out of its last five, including three straight. It seems like age is finally going to take its toll on this team every year, yet every year the Spurs are contenders.
Kawhi Leonard took another step toward stardom this season by averaging 25.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. LaMarcus Aldridge (17.3 ppg) struggled at times, but he is rounding back into form at the right time.
The Grizzlies have not fared any better as of late. They enter the playoffs having lost five of six. The three-headed attack of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol lost its bite a bit this season. Memphis, however, is very deep.