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Joe Mazzulla sends special shoutout to Celtics’ secret weapon after heroic Game 5

Boston Celtics veteran big man Al Horford is 37 years old but sometimes, he plays like he's 10 years younger. It doesn't happen often, but it did in a very timely manner Wednesday night, as he produced a tremendous performance to help the Celtics finally discard the stubborn Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs. Horford, starting in lieu of the still-injured Kristaps Porzingis, made his presence felt in Game 5, as he came away with 22 points, connecting on eight of his 15 attempts from the field, including six 3-pointers.

The Cavs' spirits gradually deflated with each surprise 3-pointer from Horford, who, prior to Game 5, went a brutal 0/10 in the previous two games.

After the game, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla made sure to let everyone know how much he and the team appreciated the effort of Horford in the series-clinching Boston victory.

“I thought he was tremendous,” Mazzulla said of Horford during the postgame press conference (h/t Daniel Donabedian of Clutchpoints). “Grateful for Al.”

The Celtics started the game slow, as they allowed the Cavs to establish some momentum. Cleveland stayed relentless despite a banged-up roster that was missing the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen, but Horford and the Celtics did enough to keep the Cavs at bay once Boston grabbed control of the situation. In the second half, Horford scored 13 points with three 3-pointers to go with 12 rebounds and three assists. His plus-14 in the second half was the best among all Celtics players during that window.

Horford was so good in Game 5 that he managed to break a LeBron James record along the way.

“Al Horford becomes the oldest player in NBA history to record a 20+ PT, 10+ REB, 5+ 3PT, 5+ AST playoff game, passing LeBron James.”

Fans react to Al Horford's big game for the Celtics in Game 5 vs CavsJim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Horford's heroics will not soon be forgotten by Celtics fans, who have taken their appreciation of the former Florida Gators star online.

“I’ve never seen embiid do this in the playoffs 😭😭😭😭”

“And people were saying he’s washed. Smh”

“I mean if he isn’t a hall of famer idk man. Especially if he wins a ring”

“Al horford didn’t want to go back to Cleveland 😂”

“Since college, doing it right.”

“Still the best of them at 17 years in the NBA!!!”

“I’ll take him over Lebron any day.”

“Great game for Horford. Onward to the ECF!”

Horford, signed by Boston to a two-year extension deal worth $19.5 million back in 2022, could have more big games in his bag. The Celtics would love to see those coming from him, especially with the uncertain status of Porzingis amid the Latvian's lower-body injury.

Boston moves on to the Eastern Conference FinalsDavid Richard-USA TODAY Sports

After taking care of business in the Cavaliers series, the Celtics can relax a bit before turning their focus on what's next. At the moment, Horford and the Celtics don't have a scheduled opponent yet in the Eastern Conference Finals, as the New York Knicks-Indiana Pacers series is still active.

But as it stands, the Knicks are the likely team to join Boston in the ECF, with Jalen Brunson and company just a win away from wrapping things up versus the Pacers. The Knicks and the Pacers play Game 6 of their series in Indiana this Friday.

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