Celtics forward Al Horford attempted just 29 3-pointers over his first seven NBA seasons with the Hawks. So the 36-year-old big man couldn’t help but smile this week when it was relayed to him that he’d moved into ninth place on Boston’s all-time 3-point list.
After going 3 for 5 from beyond the arc in a 115-93 win over the Trail Blazers Wednesday, Horford has made 463 of 1,196 3-pointers during his five seasons as a Celtic. He moved past Isaiah Thomas and is 57 3-pointers behind Avery Bradley, who sits in eighth place.
“It’s definitely special given all the greats that have come through here, but it also speaks to the way that the game is now,” Horford said. “I’m sure that if some of those guys were shooting a little more, these records would be unreachable, so I just happen to be a product of playing in this time and getting these shots.”
Horford began to reinvent himself during his final season in Atlanta in 2015-16, near the start of the shift that increased the value of floor-spacing big men. During Horford’s previous stint with the Celtics, from 2016-19, the offense often ran through him. But he has become almost exclusively a 3-point gunner, pulling opposing big men from the paint and allowing slashers such as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to find clearer paths to the rim.
He is taking 5.0 3-pointers per game, the second-highest average of his career, and he’s shooting a blistering 45.4 percent from beyond the arc, a career high.
“For me, it’s something that we’ve really put a lot of work behind it, and just continue to get more comfortable shooting those threes,” Horford said. “I’m being encouraged by coach [Joe Mazzulla], by my teammates, just continue to be aggressive and continue to shoot them.
“It is pretty cool, and for me, it’s the way that I feel like I can continue to have an impact on winning on the offensive end.”
Long road ahead
The Celtics open a six-game, 11-day road trip Saturday night against the Hawks. It’s an unusual jaunt that will take them all over the country. After playing in Atlanta, they’ll face the Rockets in Houston and the Timberwolves in Minneapolis. Then they visit the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz on back-to-back nights, before getting two days off and finishing the trip in Sacramento against the Kings.
“We need to start acting like this is it for us and every game matters and get into that rhythm,” guard Marcus Smart said. “And I think that’s just going to help us continue to be closer, especially when things aren’t going your way.
“We have to continue to trust one another and have our confidence go through the roof by helping and supporting each other.”
While the length of this trip is certainly unusual, it’s a result of the NBA’s efforts to reduce one-game road trips and essentially cut down the number of return flights.
“The road trip doesn’t matter,” Mazzulla said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re playing at home or on the road. We have to play the games, we have to have the habits, we have to execute.
“So I don’t really give a [darn] about the road trip. What I care about is the carryover and the awareness to the execution, how we manage the game and what that looks like when we do it well, and what it looks like when we don’t do it well.”
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was fined $30,000 for his scorching criticism of the officials after Toronto’s loss to the Clippers Wednesday night. Smart has been known to occasionally offer his own takes on referees, and he saw VanVleet’s take.
“Obviously, it lets you know that I’m not speaking out of my butt,” he said. “And I’m not the only one that feels that way. So I’m going to let Fred do all the talking.”