Brad Stevens says Celtics have mapped out 3-4 games for Al Horford to rest

The Boston Celtics are taking no chances with their most understated yet arguably most impactful player as the playoffs quickly approach. After his team held on to beat the pesky Atlanta Hawks 129-120 on Saturday at T.D. Garden, Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted that Al Horford will miss several more games throughout the remainder of the regular season to rest his troublesome left knee.

Horford left his team’s game on Saturday early in the third quarter, briefly heading back to the locker room. He returned to the action with approximately seven minutes remaining as the upstart Hawks mounted a comeback attempt. Stevens would later tell reporters that Horford wasn’t 100 percent coming into the contest, but felt good enough late in the game to help his team stave off Atlanta’s charge in the fourth quarter. Horford had nine points, six rebounds, and three assists in 28 minutes of play.

The 32-year-old got off to a poor start in 2018-19, hardly making the same two-way impact he did while leading the undermanned Celtics to within one game of the NBA Finals last spring. He sat out a string of games in December after being diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome in his left knee, returning to the court after two weeks away and almost immediately reaching the level of play he did consistently last season.

“It’s fair to say I’m playing my best basketball of the year, probably since I’ve been in Boston, to be honest,” Horford said earlier this week, per Michael McMahon of NESN. “I’m at a really good point in my career right now. Just the way coach is using me, and I can bring to the team, I’m at my best right now.”

“It’s health,” he continued. “Before that I wasn’t what I needed to be physically, and now that I’m feeling good, it’s been fun for me.”

Boston, 43-27, is one and-a-half games back of the Indiana Pacers for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

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