Al Horford said he was retaliating when he elbowed Mo Wagner in the groin area on an inbounds play in the third quarter of the Celtics’ loss Friday to the Magic, leading to his ejection.
“Just getting the ball inbounds, I felt like I was being kneed, kind of shoved, in an excessive fashion,” Horford said Sunday, before Boston’s 95-92 loss to Orlando in the rematch at TD Garden. “I also thought his arm was trying to hit me, too. So I just kind of swung back with my arm, back at him.”
On Sunday, Horford was fined $25,000 by the league for the incident. He said he spoke with NBA officials about the incident Saturday.
“I am surprised, but I take responsibility for it,” Horford said. “And I’m ready to put it behind us.”
Friday’s game was Horford’s first after missing three while in COVID-19 health and safety protocols, then two for the birth of his daughter.
“A lot of happiness. Just very grateful, very excited. Mom and baby are doing well, healthy, so we’re just very happy right now,” said Horford.
Mazzulla makes space for soccer
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla was a standout high school soccer player and continues to study the game closely, both as a fan and to find concepts that could translate to his basketball team. He watched much of the World Cup and caught Argentina’s thrilling win over France in penalty kicks in the final Sunday morning.
“I thought it was great,” Mazzulla said. “For a game to go down like that and watch two superstars like [France’s Kylian] Mbappe and [Lionel] Messi [of champion Argentina], I thought it was just cool to see the passion and the execution. So, it was fun.”
He has built Boston’s top-ranked offense with a focus on excellent spacing, a hallmark of successful soccer teams.
“From the tactical standpoint, the way you saw Argentina score that second goal with the one-touch and the runs that they made, I thought it was great timing on some of those,” Mazzulla said. “So that’s really what we focused on was the timing and spacing of how teams were able to execute and score goals and focus on the solutions to that. I think that can translate to our offense.”
Jayson Tatum missed Sunday’s game due to personal reasons. Mazzulla was noncommittal when asked whether Tatum would return for Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, but Tatum posted on his Instagram account Saturday afternoon that he was at a birthday party for his 5-year-old son, Deuce … Robert Williams, who made his season debut Friday after being sidelined due to knee surgery, had no lingering issues following that game and was cleared for a similar workload Sunday. He had 6 points and 5 rebounds in 17:31.