BOSTON -- The Garden fans were so loud that the Celtics could hear them from their locker room. As he warmed up on the court with his young teammates, Hawks rookie center
"You could feel everybody was on edge, everybody knew it was a big game,'' Horford
The lone rookie in the Hawks' opening lineup became their only starter to elevate his game to the moment. How did Horford respond to his postseason debut with 20 points and 10 rebounds against the league's top defense?
"I was listening to the screen,'' Horford said of the pregame video featuring highlights and interviews of current and former Celtics. "It was somebody from the Celtics and he said, You have to not be caught up in the emotions. You have to be able to just focus on what you've got to do and play. And I heard that before the game, and I was like, He's right. Because I was so hyped for the game, I'm ready to go, and you get out there sometimes and you make some dumb mistakes because you're not ready. You get too antsy. So I held it in and rode it out through the game.''
Those videos aren't meant to inspire the visiting team, Horford was told.
"I guess not,'' he said. "But I try to take something good from everything.''
Horford's efficient 7-of-10 performance in 40 minutes is one of the few positives Atlanta will carry into Game 2 of its first-round series against the top-seeded Celtics on Wednesday. The failures of Atlanta's experienced backcourt --
A rookie should not be setting the playoff example for elder teammates, but Horford is not the typical 21-year-old. Two successive NCAA titles at Florida taught more than he learned from the Celtics' pregame video.
"Everybody talked about the big stage, the playoffs and everything,'' Horford said. "I was so excited when I was out there with all the Celtics' fans, and it was a big rush for me. It just reminded me of the NCAA tournament, it was pretty intense like that. As far as the crowd, it didn't really bother me. It just got me excited.''
Horford has spent this season learning a new position as an undersized center, averaging 10.1 points and 9.7 rebounds in 81 games. He should finish second in Rookie of the Year voting to
"You know who he reminds me of is
"He looks calm and under control, like he's been here before. He's a mature kid. You can tell he's probably a student of the game, a guy that mentally prepares, and he's ready to come out there and play.''
Regardless of the series outcome, Horford can take something good from this matchup by looking up to
More impressive was Garnett's energy, which overtook him when Celtics forward
"I was overanxious, and [in] the second half I had to tell myself to calm down,'' said Powe, himself a playoff rookie.
Whereupon he looked up to see Garnett attacking him. "Then I got excited again,'' Powe said.
"It reminded me of one of my old [Florida] teammates,
The secret for Horford going forward will be to apply the childish energy of Garnett with the mature understanding of how to play the angles and create holes in the defense.
"He was unbelievable,'' Hawks coach
Brown promised that the Celtics would focus on shutting down Horford as "their No. 1 front-line guy.'' Though Horford expects an even harder test Wednesday as Boston seeks to move closer to a sweep of the No. 8 seed, he remains optimistic. That appreciation for second chances comes with not being in college anymore.
"We get to come back and play, it's best of seven,'' Horford said. "In school our mentality was win or go home. Here we have a chance to redeem ourselves and play another game.''