San Francisco – Alone in the corner of a Dallas visitor’s cramped locker room for more than 850 days and two teams, 33-year-old Al Horford politely disputed the idea that All-Star picks aren’t a defining legacy of a player’s career.
“No, no, no, that’s important, no doubt,” he told NBA.com at the time. “I always play to win and for my team to perform well, but you definitely want to be recognized.”
• Full coverage: The 2022 NBA Finals
Fast forward to today, as Horford continues to achieve those stated goals, after four seasons playing in his last All-Star Game. Chalk up the power to shine on the biggest stage in the game. It took Horford 14 seasons and 141 NBA playoffs – an NBA record – to get here. But the veteran made a painful presence for Golden State in the first game of the NBA Finals on Thursday, by torching the Warriors with 26 points on the eve of his 36-point lead.The tenth birthday.
The performance in Boston’s 120-108 victory marked Horford’s first time leading the Celtics in scoring and the big man’s performance atop today’s edition of the 2022 GP deserves to be ranked MVP in the Finals.
“I’m just excited to be able to share this stage with this group of guys,” Horford said. “We have a lot of great players here, guys who are really convinced of what we’re trying to do.”
You’ll see two of them listed alongside Horford among the top three, as we gear up to go into Game Two on Sunday at Chase Center (8 ET, ABC) with Boston leading the series 1-0.
And now, the top five in the 2022 sprint to the NBA Finals Player of the Year ladder after Game One:
1. Al Horford, Boston Celtics
First match stats: 26 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Horford broke six three-pointers in his career, collecting 11 of 26 points in the crucial fourth quarter. During that final frame, Horford fired 4v4 from field and 2v2 from depth at an important moment Veteran admitted He was waiting. Game 1 was recorded as Horford’s second-best scoring performance in the 21-22 campaign, the regular season or the playoffs. As colleague Sean Powell astutely notes, the five-time All-Star also delivered veteran leadership and fierce defense at key moments, elements that don’t necessarily appear in the stats sheet. Interestingly, none of Horford’s field goals were contested. That is sure to change in game 2.
2. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
First match stats: 24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists
In Horford’s delivery of his well-deserved flowers, we would be remiss not to mention it Spark Brown Introduction In ensuring that Boston would finish as the first team to win a double-digit final outing after falling 10 or more points (12 to be exact) at the start of the fourth quarter. With struggling star Jason Tatum (12 points, 3-17 FG), Brown scored five quick points to cut the difference to 7, before Robert Williams cuffed third to dunk Boston within 5 points. The next state possession, Payton Pritchard’s find to throw the ball that cut the Warriors’ advance to 3 points. Individually, Brown shot as many (5) times in the fourth quarter as Golden State.
3. Derek White, Boston Celtics
First match stats: 21 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists
Across his first 16 post-season games, White fired 10 to 48 from a 3-point range. But in his last three games, that’s risen to 11 for 18. New dad, the reserve guard has averaged 15.6 points over his last five games, coming in at 47.4% from the field and 43.0% from outside the arc. It was definitely white feeling it In Game 1, especially in the second inning, when he shot a 2-for-3 out of a 3-point range in fourth as Boston edged out the high-powered Warriors 40-16 in that final frame. “Every day, he’d do something new to get you to go, ‘That’s why he’s here,'” Base Officer Marcus Smart said.
4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
First match stats: 34 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists
We’ve seen vintage Curry’s performance as the 34-year-old set Boston on fire to set an NBA Finals record for most 3 throws in a quarter (six). The veteran missed his first 3, then smoked the Celtics with his 6-for-8 shot from downtown while Golden State took a 7-point lead. Curry’s 21 points scored as the most in a quarterfinal since Michael Jordan placed 22 points in the final quarter of a 1993 Game 4 against Phoenix. All the damage at night It did not come from the depths, also. Curry has now accumulated six NBA Finals playing at least 7 three-pointers.
5. Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
First match stats: 20 points, 5 rebounds
We’ve highlighted Tatum’s struggles earlier, and Wiggins certainly played a part in that on the defensive side. With Wiggins as the primary defender, Tatum fired only 1 for 5. Offensively, the forward is second behind Curry in scoring with 20 points to 8 to 15. The performance marks Wiggins’ third playoff of 20 points. After defending Dallas star Luka Doncic in the Western Conference Finals, Wiggins has another tough job trying to slow Tatum and Brown’s pace. The 27-year-old stood strong in the first game, but we all know that Tatum is unlikely to continue offering 3-vs.
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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can email him over hereFind his archive over here and follow him Twitter.
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