NEW YORK — Before the 76ers’ 117-111 win at Brooklyn on Monday, Al Horford wasn’t sure about his availability because of a sprained left (non-shooting) hand.
The 6-foot-9 center warmed up before the game and told the medical staff he was good to go. And his performance showed he was truly ready.
Horford admitted after the win that there is still pain, but he was able to persevere. He scored nine of his 19 points and had both of his blocked shots in the fourth quarter when the Sixers outscored Brooklyn, 27-20.
“He was a beast down low, especially defensively, that block at the end,” Ben Simmons said, referring to Horford’s rejection of a Caris LeVert layup with 1 minute, 10 seconds left and the Sixers holding a 108-104 lead. “It was major for us.”
It should be noted that Simmons was also a beast with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
The fact that Horford was able to provide 25:39 was also huge for a team that is trying to mix and match at the center position in light of Joel Embiid’s current injury, a torn ligament in his left ring finger
Monday was the seventh consecutive game Embiid has missed with the injury and the Sixers are 5-2. Couple that with the fact that two-way center Norvel Pelle, wasn’t with the Sixers on Monday as a way to preserve his time. Pele has one day remaining on the maximum number of days (45) the Sixers are allowed to have him on the team in his two-way deal.
Horford suffered a sprained left hand Saturday during a 90-87 win over the New York Knicks. The injury occurred in the third quarter, but Horford stayed in the game.
He was admittedly sore after Saturday’s game. Following Monday’s win, he said he took some bumps on the hand, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.
“Yes, that happens and I knew that was going to happen,” he said about getting hit on the hand. “I can deal with that kind of discomfort I’ve experienced — not like this but similar — and I was fine.”
Having an off-day before visiting the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday will no doubt help Horford and the center position.
Against Brooklyn, Simmons was utilized some at center. Simmons, as the earlier stat line indicated, excelled at whatever position he played. Kyle O’Quinn was used at center for 5:59.
The fact that Toronto (29-14) has Marc Gasol back at center makes Horford’s presence that much more important.
Gasol had missed 12 games with a hamstring injury but has played in the Raptors’ last four contests.
The Sixers (29-16) have won two games in a row on the road‚ but they are still 9-14 away from the Wells Fargo Center. It didn’t matter that the road wins have come against the Knicks and Nets, two teams with a combined 30-56 record. These last two games have helped the team’s collective confidence.
“For us it is huge,” Horford said. “You know our struggles on the road, we haven’t been a good road team.”
Horford feels the momentum can continue.
“I think this is a good turning point for us, a tough one against the Knicks and now coming here [to Brooklyn] against a team that plays well at home, and to be able to come away with a win is big for us.”
What was just as big was Horford not only being able to play, but doing so effectively. He shot 9 for 15 from the field, while grabbing six rebounds in addition to the two blocked shots.
“I only learned he was going to play when I came into the arena, and so when you don’t have Norvel and you don’t have Joel and then you might not have Al, you are starting to think about what is going to happen here,” coach Brett Brown said.